Best CCRC Lite Design of 2023: Innovative Community With Connections to D.C. 

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The designers and project planners behind Brightview Dulles Corner had an overarching mission to foster interactions between residents and the outside world.

With a location in the Washington, D.C. area and proximity to public transportation and green spaces, the community makes good on that mission. Today, the community pushes the “envelope of what senior housing can be,” according to Hord Coplan Macht Principal Cynthia Shonaiya, who worked on the project with operator and developer Brightview Senior Living.

“This senior living community is not just the building,” Shonaiya told Senior Housing News. “It’s an active part of everything going on in the Dulles Corner area.”

The community’s modern, urban design, coupled with its location and forward-thinking concept, helped it snag the top spot in the Best CCRC Lite Category in the 2023 Senior Housing News Architecture and Design Awards.

The concept

The project planners behind Brightview Dulles Corner first got to work on the community in 2014. Baltimore-based Brightview sought to open the community to expand its footprint into the nearby market of Northern Virginia.

The project planners chose a location along the Silver Line, an extension of D.C.’s Metro that was at the time still under development at the time. The initial plans were put on hold until 2017 due to delays extending the Silver Line and the nearby Innovation Center Station, where the community was coming together.

“We determined at that time that it was too early for this site. The growth and development of the area just hadn’t matured enough,” Brightview Senior Vice President of Development Steve Marker told SHN.

Brightview spent the following years developing other projects in Rockville and Bethesda, Maryand.

Once planning resumed, the project planners already had a vision for the community when they restarted work on the design. But, they altered some of the community’s features and experimented with its pro forma and unit mix.

The designers also wanted to create “specific, memorable architecture” with “as small a carbon footprint as possible.” To achieve that goal, they designed the community with a more vertical alignment – a “fairly compact” community spanning seven stories tall.

The design that emerged had tall, mostly flat walls “reworked to develop a skin which appears to have more massing and articulation,” and irregular, varying window patterns to give the building a “rich texture.” The result was a “completely modern version of an old cityscape, where many different buildings make up the whole,” that help conjure a “more friendly and residential feeling,” the planners noted.

Courtesy Brightview Senior Living

The community’s planners also wanted to showcase and celebrate art. Brightview launched an international design competition that received over 200 submissions to be featured in the community, with each artist having a “unique tie” to senior living, Marker said.

Among the challenges of planning the community was the amount of coordination required to accomplish it. The design included a public park that was the result of a public-private partnership between Fairfax County and the project planners.

“The city wanted to make sure, for example, that we were taking advantage of the parking garage that serves the metro station that is adjacent to our building,” Shonaiya said. “They wanted to make sure we had bikes available for staff – but all of those things actually turned into advantages for the community.”

There were also difficulties in getting the zoning approval needed to allow for transit-oriented development, she said.

Another challenge was related to the size of the community. At 268,000 square feet, it was larger than many of the communities Hord Coplan Macht designed with Brightview in the past. Thus, it had to be modified to fit within the confines of what Shonaiya said was a “tight site.”

Courtesy Brightview Senior Living

The construction

Construction on the $65 million project started in the first quarter of 2021, right in the middle of the Covid pandemic, and finished on schedule. Builder Donohoe constructed the community.

Marker said the construction and design teams were creative in problem solving the issues that arose due to supply chain constraints at the time. They substituted some materials such as removing glass and steel elements in the community’s towers in favor of more wall space.

The planners navigated through several challenges, including the high cost of some materials at the community. But Shonaiya said the substitutions made throughout were able to keep the project on budget.

Outside of material changes, Marker said the design of the community remained largely the same.

“It really is amazing when I look back at the renderings of the community from years before, how similar it is to the build products that we’re so happy with today,” he said.

In the end, the project team was able to build the community for $236 per square foot – a real feat in the pricey D.C. real estate market. That helped the community keep within a “reasonable budget” aimed at giving more residents the ability to afford its monthly rates.

The completion

Brightview Dulles Corner was completed on schedule in the first quarter of 2023.

With 196 units and amenities such as a memory care garden, fitness center, dog park and bocce courts, the community stands as a testament to fostering community and connections between residents and the surrounding community members..

Marker said he is pleased with the way that the community gives residents access to the surrounding area.

“From the entry experience and the grand stair that pulls you up to the amenity level, with the public parks spilling out behind, the way that our residents are able to engage with the broader community … is just a really beautiful, unique element,” he said.

The community is filling up well, Marker said, which the project planners noted is consistent with other Brightview communities in infill urban locations.

Shonaiya said that being able to manage the complexity of the site adds to its successes as well.

Ric D’Amico, senior vice president of real estate and development for Acts Retirement Life Communities and a judge for the Best CCRC Lite category, praised the community’s energetic and inviting nature.

Fellow judge Greg Gauthreaux, associate principal with Perkins Eastman, wrote that Brightview Dulles Corner has “great exterior amenities and connections to community,” and the uses of play area and pet spaces “encourage intergenerational living.”

Marker said that based on the successes of Brightview Dulles Corner, the lessons learned in its design and construction will be used in future projects, one of which is breaking ground in the first quarter of 2024.

“We’re incredibly thrilled with how the whole process went,” Marker said.

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