Nicole May is one of the millions of Americans who are nearing retirement age and getting ready for the next chapters of their lives.
May, 54, is preparing to step away next year from her job as a teacher at Noblesville High School. She will also move into a new apartment at Promenade Trails, an active-adult community under construction at the northwest corner of State Road 32 and Little Chicago Road in Noblesville.
Active-adult communities are rental properties that can include apartments, cottages or villas that are targeted toward seniors who do not require medical care and want recreational activities and chances to socialize with people in their peer group.
May currently lives nearby in the Promenade Apartments. She never imagined in her younger years that she would want to live in a senior community, but the idea of being around people her age is intriguing.
“For me, the definition of what it means to be, like, 55 and older has everything to do with activity, communities and just being with other people who have similar life experiences,” May said.
Noblesville-based The Justus Cos. plans to complete Promenade Trails this spring. The project will include 59 cottages and a community building with 151 apartments. Residents are expected to begin moving into the cottages this month.
The single-story cottages have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and range from 1,297 square feet to 1,467 square feet. The three-story community building will include one- and two-bedroom apartments from 714 square feet to 1,595 square feet. Monthly rent will average around $3,000 for the cottages and range from $1,500 to $3,000 for apartments.
Amenities in the community building will include a wellness center, pet spa, clubroom, pub and lounge. The building will also have an interior courtyard with a pool, sun deck, meditation garden, outdoor kitchen and TV lounge.
The development will also have a dog park, walking paths, nature trail and ponds.
“I can stay physically active,” May said. “I can’t wait to have the trails.”
Promenade Trails is what’s defined as an active-adult community, a type of development that is growing in popularity across the country for adults who don’t need assisted living but are looking for low-maintenance rental housing in lifestyle-focused communities.
In Hamilton County, at least four projects are in the works across Noblesville, Westfield, Carmel and Fishers.
Promenade Trails is part of Justus’ larger Promenade at Noblesville development, which it has been planning since acquiring property in 2013 from Indianapolis-based Equicor Co.
Promenade Apartments, which opened in 2020 at the northeast corner of State Road 32 and Little Chicago Road, has 15 apartment buildings with 300 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
The developer in 2022 also announced Midwestern retail giant Meijer Inc. will build a 90,000-square-foot grocery store at the Promenade at Noblesville.
“We wanted to create a multi-generational feel [at Promenade],” said Angela Miller, chief operating officer of Noblesville-based The Justus Cos. “The community is a new brand for us.”
The active-adult community concept has particularly accelerated in Arizona, Colorado and Texas, said Shane Hageman, president of Carmel-based Hageman Group.
“In any major market, it’s sort of growing across the country,” Hageman said. “Just in the last few years, it’s really taken off, and people have looked at this as an alternative to traditional multifamily. [It’s] more of a specialty type of multifamily.”
While active-adult communities have long existed, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care published a report in 2022 that defined them for the first time as “age-eligible, market rate, multifamily properties that are lifestyle focused” and do not provide meals.
The communities can be adjacent to other types of senior housing, and they are at the beginning of the continuum of housing for older adults.
The report said the term “active-adult” previously also described for-sale single-family houses in a retirement community or within a section of a master-planned community.
“The [active-adult] term has been a little bit confusing out in the market,” Miller said. “I think it helped when NIC redefined what active-adult is.”
The average age of an active-adult community resident ranges from the upper 60s to the mid-70s, the NIC report said. Residents tend to stay six to nine years, with annual turnover rates of about 20%. That’s compared with 50% annual turnover in traditional multifamily properties.
The size of an active-adult property is generally 140 to 180 units, with apartment sizes ranging from 650 to 1,800 square feet. Luxury units can exceed 2,200 square feet.
There were about 230 active-adult communities in 34 states in 2022, according to the NIC.
Rising in the suburbs
Active-adult projects are primarily constructed in suburban areas. They are usually built near parks and trails. Retail amenities are sometimes attached, or the communities are located near shopping areas.
In addition to Promenade Trails, three other active-adult communities are under development in Hamilton County. HighGround, a subsidiary of Hageman Group, is planning active-adult properties in Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield.
In March, HighGround will open GrandView Luxury 55+ Living, a four-story apartment building with 157 apartments at East 181 Street and Wheeler Road. Monthly rent for one-bedroom units will begin at $1,500. The average rent will be $1,850.
GrandView will be part of Grand Park Village, a New England-style community that has been in the works for more than a decade. The concept for Grand Park Village, designed by Carmel-based Henke Development Group LLC, includes shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and multifamily housing surrounding a 15-acre lake with a boardwalk.
HighGround is about six months from opening Vista at RiverWest at East 146th Street and River Road in Noblesville. The four-story apartment building will have 146 units.
Vista at RiverWest is part of the RiverWest development, a public-private partnership between the city of Noblesville and Indianapolis-based Milhaus LLC that began construction in 2022. The $120 million project is expected to include a total of nearly 500 apartment units, 104 for-sale town houses and 30,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
And HighGround plans to begin construction this year on CityView in Fishers, a six-story building with 184 apartments at East 116th Street and Lantern Road. The $90 million CityView will also have 16,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space and a 280-space parking garage.
CityView will be built next to the six-story First Internet Bank building, which opened in 2021. The apartment building will be adjacent to the Nickel Plate Trail and near the five-story Hotel Nickel Plate, which is expected to open in February, and The Rev, a $35 million project with 36 condominiums ranging from $600,000 to $1 million, 23,000 square feet of commercial and office space, and a parking garage.
Hageman said the active-adult communities are typically recreation-oriented and targeted toward people desiring a simpler lifestyle.
“We’re sort of on the cutting edge,” Hageman said. “There’s not a lot of active-adult communities in the luxury space right now, so I’d say we’re definitely at the leading edge of this.”
Hageman described active-adult communities as being the third step on a spectrum of group living that ranges from student housing to general multifamily to active-adult to independent living to assisted living.
“I think sometimes [active-adult] gets lumped into more of this progressive-care idea where you get into some places where you have independent living that moves into assisted living, nursing home and memory care and all these other things,” Hageman said. “This is just nowhere on that spectrum.”
He said the typical resident of an active-adult community has just moved out of a house they owned or is already renting and wants to live someplace more community-oriented with more services and amenities.
“It’ll get to an effortless lifestyle for them,” Hageman said. “So I think people are going to be coming from other multifamily projects where they are looking for more service and more community or people who are wanting to sell their house and get into a lifestyle where they have community and have more ease of life.”
Pat Mendelson, 85, splits her time between Nevada and Noblesville; she will move into a cottage at Promenade Trails this spring. The amenities, including the trails she’ll be able to walk, are what drew her to an active-adult community, plus she was looking to move into a smaller space after her husband died four years ago.
“It’s going to be maintenance-free, and I was able to rent a structure that looked like a house instead of buying,” Mendelson said. “This type of living appeals to me now.”
The Justus Cos.’ Miller said demand for active-adult communities has increased as baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, have grown more amenable to renting. Mobility, flexibility and a desire for less responsibility are also pushing boomers toward the properties.
In 2021, The Justus Cos. announced a pivot in strategy toward active-adult developments when the company sold its Woodland Terrace senior living communities in Carmel, Danville and New Palestine. The three communities focused on independent living, assisted living and memory care.
“I think it’s still in transition here,” Miller said. “I think there’s a number of changing attitudes towards homeownership and some of it with economic uncertainty.”
Autumn Gasior, a communications professional who performed market research on active-adult trends for HighGround, said growth of active-adult communities coincides with the United States’ 70 million baby boomers considering the next stages of their lives.
“Statistics say boomers do not want to move into senior housing, and they want to do things on their terms and their way,” Gasior said.
Miller added that the pandemic played a role in the growth of the active-adult sector. She said people who were active and living in independent living had to follow the same restrictions as nursing homes and other health-care-oriented facilities.
“They were active, and they wanted to go out, and they wanted to leave, and they wanted to manage their own risk,” Miller said. “I think that helped to kind of accelerate it.”•