On the market: Senior artist rental communities
In July 2005, professional musician Betti Vincent vacated a “ratty little apartment on Hollywood Way” and moved into a one-bedroom apartment at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony, a rental housing community built for creative souls ages 55 and older.
Located at San Fernando Road and East Verdugo Avenue, the colony has 141 one- and two-bedroom apartments that rent for up to $2,662. (Forty-two apartments are reserved for affordable housing.)
Don’t worry about blowing the audition. Kasey Burke, senior vice president for L.A.-based developer Meta Housing Corp., says the colony is open to all seniors.
“It tends to attract people who have an artistic touch, but is not restrictive. The fundamental principle is giving people the opportunity to engage in active living. We try to empower them to take care of themselves and feel a sense of importance and purpose,” Burke says.
Colony residents -- dancers, writers, musicians, true artists and fancied ones -- have a variety of options for creative self-expression, including two art studios (one for painters, one for potters and sculptors, and both open 24 hours a day), a video and film editing lab, a computer lab, a game room, a library, a community room and a movie theater and projection room.
An advisory board of local artists and prospective tenants was recruited to pinpoint elements to enhance the senior living environment prior to breaking ground on the colony in 2003, says Meta, who selected the advisors along with Tim Carpenter, founder of EngAGE, an L.A.-based nonprofit that designs and delivers programs for more than a dozen senior residential communities in Southern California.
The approach resulted in an enriched environment for seniors. The programs are free for tenants and provided by EngAGE. Daily exercise classes include yoga and aqua aerobics. Weekly workshops explore topics such as writing for television, drawing, understanding computers and acting.Vincent, 77, a pianist and singer, loves the creative outlets. “It’s like a little slice of heaven,” she says.
Retired from the professional arena, Vincent provides the melody for musical activities and conducts the colony chorus, a woman’s chorus with one “token male.”
“He’s 90, and all the women love him,” Vincent says.
Hurlburt, a retired commercial sign painter and oil painter, moved to California from Boston in 1965. He came to the colony in September 2006 after selling his Van Nuys home. He heads to Studio Two almost every day to paint. His oil paintings and the works of other residents are displayed throughout the colony common areas.
“I looked at some other apartments. Then I read about this place in the newspaper,” Hurlburt recalls. “Since I fancy myself an artist, I thought I would look into this place.”
Ron Wilson, who came to the colony in June 2005 and preferred to keep his age a mystery despite relentless resident ribbing, says that for many people, especially those who recently suffered the death of a spouse, the community offers a fresh start.
“Some people feel like it is the end of the world,” Wilson says. “But you see that for a lot of these people, this place provides an opportunity to start a new chapter in their life."
Unlike many senior communities, the colony does not provide assisted-living services for residents.
“Our goal is to keep them independent, engaged, active, successful and out of higher, and more costly, levels of care,” says EngAGE CEO Maureen Kellen-Taylor.
Burke says the colony was the nation’s first purpose-built senior artist community.
“It was designed and built as a place for aging artists and people in the entertainment industry,” he says. “The idea was to give something appropriate to the city and the community and active seniors who just didn’t want to be part of a regular retirement community ... and wanted to engender their creativity. Our new goal is to continue to develop a few of these communities each year.”
Michael Bohn, lead architect and director of design for Studio One Eleven in Long Beach, is working with Meta to create a multi-generational housing and mixed-used, transit-oriented senior arts colony at Long Beach Boulevard and Anaheim Street. Bohn said Meta expects to break ground on the $65-million, two-complex development in September and be ready for tenants by summer 2012.
"We see this as a revitalization project for Long Beach. And the idea of linking senior housing with transit just makes so much sense,” Bohn says.
The Long Beach senior arts colony, Bohn says, will have 147 mixed-income rental apartments (20% “very” affordable housing), one and two bedrooms (about 600 square feet to about 950 square feet), for tenants ages 55 and older.
It will provide high-efficiency “green” housing elements, access to a car-sharing service, bicycle facilities, priority parking for hybrid-electric cars, an enhanced bus stop adjacent to the light-rail Blue Line and wider public sidewalks. There will be art studios, a community room, a fitness center, a movie theater and projection room and a seventh-floor library and game room with a roof deck that overlooks the city.
A neighboring complex will include 39 affordable-housing senior rental units and be linked to the arts colony by a shared courtyard with a dog park and community gardens for residents to grow vegetables and cut flowers.
Meta hopes to break ground on a 123-unit North Hollywood senior arts community toward the end of the year. Burke says Long Beach and North Hollywood rents will be comparable with the colony in Burbank.
“The only real difference with North Hollywood is that we will have a real working theater that will be leased out by the Road Theatre Company