Best Independent Living Design of 2023: Naples CCRC Brings Nature Inside

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Just miles from the Gulf of Mexico sits a newly expanded continuing care retirement community (CCRC) that seeks to raise the bar on luxury senior living.

The community, Moorings Park Grande Lake, added a building that serves as a clubhouse and independent living residence dubbed the Moorings Park Grande Lake Clubhouse. At the heart of a 55-acre campus, the addition brings residents together as a central hub bustling with life and energy.

The designers took cues from the surrounding natural environment and created a community that has nods to both high luxury and the surrounding natural environment.

Moorings Park CEO Dan Lavender told SHN that the effort, the third Naples, Florida-based community in the company’s growth, was undertaken to capture renewed senior living demand, while being able to expand the overall mission of Moorings Park as a non-profit senior living provider. 

“We started to prepare for the next generation that was going to retire and we began to add amenities,” Lavender said. “Our mission is all about successful aging and the Clubhouse is the latest development to aid in that vision.”

With an exterior design that includes a modern  twist on coastal contemporary design and amenities such as a full-service spa, theater and  the project fulfills demand for a next-generation senior living dwelling and hangout spot.

The project’s innovative design helped the project snag the top spot in the 2023 SHN Architecture and Design Awards’ Best Independent Living category.

The Concept

This luxury life plan community first opened in 2020, with the clubhouse opening in 2021. From the start, Lavender said Moorings Park was dedicated to emphasizing the environment and bringing nature indoors. 

“We tried to combine our nonprofit status and our mission-driven thinking to our expansion by capturing the exact location that we were in, and that was based around water and the lake feature on the property,” Lavender said.

The architects landed on a design that includes organic lines and rich textures along with natural materials to bring a sense of calm and refinement mirrored with high-end amenities.

Wegman Design Group handled the interior design of the community, with BSSW Architects handling general architectural services and construction was completed by Suffolk Construction.

“We interviewed as many of the employees and future residents as we could and said that this was the time to break the mold, so to speak,” said Wegman Design Group President Lori Wegman. “We turned that over to [BSSW Architects] and we collaborated with them to make sure the flow was there.”

The project was meant to add on to two other Moorings Park locations in the Naples area..

“We wanted to play to that lake concept, and we wanted to be a new twist on coastal contemporary design,” Wegman said. “We wanted to really emulate nature and we did that by using a lot of natural products.” 

Elevating the coastal contemporary design, Wegman noted that project designers decorated the space with littoral plants and yoga pavilions overlooking the lake. The ceilings in the clubhouse emulate palm leaves, with furnishings including white oak with beams curved to bring an organic feel to the property.

With the emphasis on nature and promoting resident wellness, Lavender said management worked with the design teams to bring to life healthy uplifting spaces, intentionally crafting the project around the property’s lake to create a sense of place. 

“We didn’t want anything to block the views of the beautiful nature that’s around you when you come to Moorings Park Grande Lake,” Lavender said.

With a lot of curvilinear walls and rippling surfaces and treatments, the community brings contemporary coastal design to life with warmth and texture. The building relies on expansive and large windows to bring natural light inside and interior landscaping to bring greenery indoors.

Throughout the building are water features, planters to help define the space and bring nature to life in the community itself, Wegman said.

In terms of challenges, Wegman said designers worked to layout amenities in a way that got people to move through the space vertically and stay connected with one another amid site constraints.

“We had to keep the verticality in mind,” Wegman said. “We wanted to create a space that shows there is really something happening on every floor and that took a lot of thought.” 

The Construction

Construction for the project started during the height of the pandemic, and Wegman said the design team worked with those on the construction team to coordinate weekly meetings.

Wegman said the changing nature of the Covid-19 guidelines early on created challenges for the project, but she noted that team members came together to be “reactive and responsive” and ultimately brought the team together to overcome the myriad challenges.

“I had team members working on millwork submittals, hardware, interior finishes and roofing,” Wegman said. “That really helped because we had that continuity and it elevated the finished product from a design standpoint.”

Lavender recalled that during construction, all teams worked together to keep work on track and no substantial delays materialized, despite supply chain issues related to building supplies like back-ordered glass and other items.

“We knew what we wanted and Lori’s team was really great in helping us make those tough decisions on things to prioritize,” Lavender said. “We worked really well together to come up with something special.”

With no substantial delays, the project remained on its original 15 to 18-month construction schedule. Workers wrapped up construction in February 2021. In the end, the project’s budget was approximately $77 million.

The Completion

With a recent ground-breaking ceremony in the Clubhouse marking the start of construction for assisted living units on the campus, Lavender said he sees first-hand how residents engage with the Clubhouse and surrounding campus. 

Today, the Grande Lake Clubhouse stands out with luxury amenities and offerings. The site includes rubberized walking paths and the building sits as the crown jewel of the property sitting seven stories over parking at the end of a long lake with ample water and sunset views.

“We had 100 residents at the groundbreaking party and it was great to see them socializing and developing meaningful relationships,” Lavender said. “When I arrive mornings, I see residents working out in the fitness center or participating in organized classes or in the art studio, that’s how I know the project’s been successful.” 

The nonprofit senior living organization is in the midst of selling units soon-to-be construction residences, and demand remains elevated, Lavender said. 

“It’s been going very well,” Lavender said. “The demand for the community has remained very high throughout the development of the site. It’s really become an active, engaging place where I see people making connections and aging successfully and that’s the key.” 

Wegman noted that the project was a success as evidenced by the community’s usage, from use of amenities to dining and more.

“We thought the cafe would be open between eight o’clock in the morning and close at two o’clock,” Wegman said. “They’re needing to extend the hours through dinner.” 

The community is bustling with activity of new residents and Moorings Park is looking at adding an additional community bar due to the popularity of the 24-seat bar at the community currently.

“In this short time, we’ve seen the acclamation and usage and the increase in programming,” Wegman said. “It’s working and that’s really good.” 

Wegman added that she was “very proud” to work in partnership with Moorings Park Communities due to the operator’s willingness to push for “perfection and excellence” in the name of improving the overall senior living resident experience. She added that the project is, to her, a kind of “creme de la creme” situation.

“I use this project to try and share with people because it’s what creates success,” Wegman said. “It’s important to have the vision and that makes a big difference.”

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