Ebenezer is pivoting from just managing senior housing cooperatives to also developing them — and it may be just the start of what President and CEO Jon Lundberg hopes to achieve with the product type.
Though it has only been a matter of months since leaders with the Edina, Minnesota-based operator launched the new senior co-op Estoria Cooperatives brand, those plans are already starting to come together.
With the concept underway, Lundberg is peering into the future, and thinking about how the product type will evolve over time.
Although senior housing co-ops are currently a niche product type and are mostly found in the upper Midwest, Lundberg believes there are opportunities to expand into new states and compete with other kinds of lower-acuity senior housing, such as active adult communities.
Ebenezer, which is an affiliate of Fairview Health Services, develops, consults and provides management services to 101 senior housing communities throughout Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, including more than 60 senior housing co-ops.
While Ebenezer is currently known in the industry for its senior housing management services, development is in the organization’s DNA. In fact, the operator’s former president, A. Luther Molberg, developed what is considered the first senior housing co-op in Edina, Minnesota, in 1978.
In the decades since, senior housing co-ops have become a senior housing niche, with communities serving only a small subset of the total market. But Ebeneer is looking to pioneer the product type in another way: By growing the model’s appeal with other prospective residents through the Estoria brand, possibly in places other than Minnesota.
“Our focus is on developing the brand, that is a quality brand that meets the best needs in the marketplace, and that can stand on its own,” Lundberg said. “The rest of it will take care of itself.”
Estoria takes shape
Ebenezer’s shift from primarily managing senior housing co-ops to also developing them was not a hasty decision.
“It’s not something that came out of the blue,” Lundberg said.
The operator’s leaders spent years pondering whether to jump back into development, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that they began to think seriously about it, Lundberg said. Specifically, they saw how well senior housing co-ops supported residents and created a real sense of community. Operators in the space also saw strong demand and relatively flat expenses over the past two and a half years.
Unlike a rental senior living community, residents in the co-op model buy shares in a corporation that owns the building, allowing them to lease a specific unit within a building and utilize common areas. Residents will usually pay a monthly fee for assessments, maintenance and repairs and have voting rights over community decisions. They also have more control over customizing their units than a typical senior living resident.
It was the ownership component that made the difference for many of the operator’s residents — and in how they treated one another, according to Lundberg.
“When the people that live in the building are the owners of that building, when they are truly tied in and bought into the operation, they think differently about their neighbors and how they interact,” he said.
At the same time, Lundberg has seen a rise in popularity of lower-acuity product types such as active adult, and in developing them. And he believes senior housing co-ops can meet residents’ needs in a similar way.
“We think this is one of the critical models of independent housing that has even greater value,” Lundberg said. “As we stepped back and looked at all those things together, we said, ‘We need to move on this and we have various opportunities, so let’s take advantage.’”
Growing the model
Under the Estoria model, residents — also referred to as members — will have their pick of units ranging from 970 square feet for one-bedroom units to 1,765 square feet for units with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The first Estoria project is an 89-unit community coming together in Lakeville, Minnesota. The community is planned to have a slate of amenities typically found in rental active adult, such as a yoga and fitness center, golf simulator, pub, bike storage and repair space, an art studio and pickleball courts.
While costs vary from project to project, a typical senior housing co-op project costs $30 million to develop in 2022, with funding coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Lundberg said. The community won’t move forward with construction until 60% of the homes are sold, which he projects will happen “at least by next spring.”
Beyond the community in Lakeville, Ebenezer has plans to undertake development of a handful of co-ops at a time.
“Our goal is, as we start getting the flywheel spinning here, that we’ll have two or three going at a time so we can just keep everything flowing from one to the other,” Lundberg said.
Possibly complicating those plans is the fact that the U.S. economy may enter a recession in the coming weeks or months. If that affects home prices, that could in theory affect demand for senior housing co-ops, as residents often use their home equity to buy a unit.
But Lundberg is heartened by how the organization performed during the Great Recession in 2008, and he believes that Ebenezer would also weather a similar economic downturn in 2022.
At the end of the day, the senior co-op model is still relatively limited to the upper Midwest, such as in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Outside of those areas, it’s still a relatively niche product — but that, too, might be changing.
“As people sit down, look at what their options are and evaluate them, they see that this is really a true value, whether they’re looking at it in terms of their ability to be engaged … or they’re looking at the different tax benefits of ownership,” Lundberg said.
And if residents can see the value of senior housing co-ops, he believes Ebenezer can expand the model well beyond its backyard.
“The cooperative model is something that is a little bit more well known in the Midwest, and so some of the sales around the concept may be a little bit easier because of that,” he said. “But I think as the product matures, more and more people will become interested in it.”
Ebenezer is delighted to announce that our CEO Jon Lundberg was named Executive of the Year by the Minnesota Real Estate Journal in an awards ceremony held on April 21, 2022.
Since 2018, Jon has led the Ebenezer team. While the role of CEO is never an easy one, the last two years have been especially challenging for the senior living industry. COVID-19, a shortage of workers, and complex regulatory changes have contributed to make 2021 an especially difficult year. However, under the steady leadership of Jon Lundberg, Ebenezer managed to thrive under these very challenging conditions.
While Jon’s list of accomplishments is long and includes 2021 milestones such as: hiring 2828 new employees, being named a Star Tribune Top Workplace for the 11th year in a row, and being recognized as Minnesota’s largest senior housing operator by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; it’s Jon’s personal touch as a leader that makes a difference to the Ebenezer staff.
Jill Nokleby Kaiser, Director of Housing Development, states that “Jon Lundberg exemplifie[s] ‘Servant Leadership’ in so many ways . . . He has paid attention to the individuals who work for Ebenezer through his sincere interest in their personal life and development . . . He ha[s] led Ebenezer in a thoughtful manner and . . . and has been skilled at getting diverse, and often passionate opinions to a collaborative direction.”
Jon’s calm and caring leadership has positioned Ebenezer at the forefront of senior care and housing in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest region. As Richard Howard, Ebenezer’s Chairman of the Board says, “[Jon’s] strategic leadership has shown itself by results in continuous growth for Ebenezer across broad marketplaces in the upper Midwest. In short, Jon has a resilient, servant leadership style that includes high integrity, ethics, and getting results across many measurement categories.”
As our mission expands, we are thankful for Jon’s experience, support and leadership skills. Ebenezer is confident in Jon and in our future. Congratulations Jon, on a well-deserved honor.
As part of Fairview, Ebenezer Management Services works to meet the unique health and cultural needs of the many diverse populations we serve. With that goal in mind, we’re partnering with the Prairie Island Indian Community to offer a unique care option to the tribe’s elders, right on tribal lands.
The Prairie Island Indian Community, a federally recognized Mdewakanton Dakota Tribe, recently broke ground on an elder assisted living center that will serve members of the tribal community.
Fairview's Ebenezer Management Services, which specializes in senior housing and care, has been chosen to operate and staff the elder center.
“As the largest senior housing operator in Minnesota, Ebenezer Management Services is proud to partner with the Prairie Island Community on this exciting project,” says Jon Lundberg, chief operating officer of Ebenezer. “This new assisted living center represents an impressive commitment from the Prairie Island Community to serve seniors, and we are happy to work with them to achieve this goal.”
Ebenezer will work in collaboration with tribal leaders to customize care and meet the specific health needs of the Prairie Island Indian Community’s seniors.
The 38,000 square foot single story community is being built on 18 acres of tribal land located in Welch, Minn. The design and operation of the facility will focus on incorporating Dakota culture and community into the assisted living setting.
This project will enable the Prairie Island Indian Community to serve its Dakota elders with honor, care and respect while encouraging family and community involvement.
“The elders’ assisted living facility will allow for those who have raised us, taught us and made us into what we are today, to continue living their lives comfortably and safely within our own Community,” says Shelley Buck, president of the Tribal Council.
Construction is scheduled to begin June 2017 with completion scheduled for fall 2017. We look forward to providing Prairie Island Indian Community seniors with top-quality, patient-focused care.
You just got a great price on some new land in a prime location. Or you have connected with a group of financial investors who have money to spend.
With the silver tsunami on its way (over 50 million people will be 65 years of age or over by 2020) you figure building new senior housing is a good bet.
But now comes the really important part. The market feasibility of a new senior housing development, and even more critical, finding the right operator and management partner. Here are some questions to consider as you research your options:
Q: Does the management company specialize in working with older adults? If so, how long have they been in business? What is their reputation in the marketplace?
A: This should always be the first question you ask. Reputation and brand are a huge influence not only in senior housing development, but everything! The more history and experience you have, the more knowledge you gain. The more knowledge you gain, the more tools you have to benefit from…and these tools provide the framework from which a good, solid reputation is formed.
In the senior housing industry, we’re dealing with a population who probably hasn’t moved in years. They are resistant to change and need to feel confident that leaving their home for a senior living community is the right next step. How confident would you feel moving somewhere with a bad reputation or a place that has no experience working with older adults?
The seniors aren’t the only factor, however. Adult children also play a large role when it comes to their parents moving out of their homes and into senior housing. They too need to be assured that this is the right move, and feel comfortable leaving their loved ones in the care of someone else.
Q: Is your potential partner aligned with a major health system?
A: In the senior housing industry, you’re not just dealing with physical space for older adults to live, more importantly you’re creating an environment for them to feel safe and receive the extra care needed to continue to live happy and healthy.
It’s crucial that your potential partner be aligned with a major health system. When you have that connection you receive quality home care, dependable and experienced hospice care, and referrals for physical therapy, occupational therapy, surgery, etc. can be made easily and efficiently. Being affiliated with a major health system means you have that many more resources to tap into.
Q: What about economies of scale? What kind of bang do you get for your investment buck?
A: When looking at economies of scale, it’s all about the operator. You can’t just look at a market study, see there’s a need for senior housing and start building. It’s much more than that. You have to determine size, and with that comes staffing. You could have a beautiful 225 unit building and even 225 seniors ready to move in. But, if you don’t have employees to staff the building you’re digging yourself into a hole. I find that 90-120 unit buildings are where you’ll receive the biggest “bang for your investment buck.” It’s large enough to incorporate all of the various amenities older adults are looking for in senior housing, but small enough to appropriately staff, generate high occupancy, and create a cozy at-home feel.
Q: How deep is the support infrastructure?
A: At Ebenezer, our team of experts is multi-layered. And you need those layers to be successful. From understanding health care reform and the latest regulations, to the advancements in/use of technology, to human resources, nursing, sales and marketing, dementia programing and education, dining, customer service, budgets and proformas, state guidelines and land development solutions – the list goes on and on.
Q: Who knows the right players to work with in senior housing development?
A: This circles back to question one. I said it before, and I’ll say it again - reputation and brand mean EVRYTHING. The more established your potential partner is within the senior housing industry, the more knowledge they have about the right “players” to work with. From contractors and architects to market research and technology companies – they must have the experience to know who gets the job down right at the best price.
With costs of building new senior housing in the millions, investors want a return on their money as quickly as possible. The healthcare system is evolving rapidly, as are the regulations. It is critical to choose the right management partner to ensure your success. To find out more about my team at Ebenezer, or for a FREE land assessment, please contact me.
Remember that saying? When it comes to senior living and social media, I really think it’s spot on.
Let me explain. I often try and imagine what it’s like for older adults moving to a new Ebenezer community. Chances are they are moving from a home they have lived in for several years – often 50 years or more. Maybe their spouse of many years has passed away, and they are adjusting to being on their own. It can be a time of such change, and with change, sometimes comes uncertainty.
This is where the beauty of social media comes in to play. I welcome you to “like” the Ebenezer Facebook page and the Facebook pages of our various communities located across the Twin Cities and beyond. These Facebook pages, posts and pictures truly tell a story. They tell the story of what life is like in Ebenezer communities, and that while change can be scary, it often brings so much joy.
It tells the story of who we are, what we value, how we care. You will see pictures of our residents at Cherrywood Pointe knitting hats for Joseph’s Coat to help others stay warm in the bitter Minnesota winter months. You will see residents at Nine Mile Creek making sandwiches to help feed those in need. You will see residents and children painting pictures together at TowerLight on Wooddale Avenue, and making music together with MacPhail Center for Music - the young and older learning from each other.
You will see friends laughing together at Friday Happy Hour, dancing together at Valentine’s Day dances, and exercising in the fitness rooms. You will see residents gathered together to discuss the Kennedy assassination and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon at various speaker forums. You will see veterans of two World Wars being honored, and sharing their experiences with younger generations. You will see camping trips, trips to the Hopkins Center for the Arts, or walks around Minnehaha Falls.
You will see staff members being honored for their caring and service to our residents.
You will SEE vibrant senior living. Look at the faces of the older adults and children. These pictures show the Ebenezer story and mission in ACTION. It gives you a glimpse into our organization, and those we serve. At Ebenezer, we have learned a thing or two over the course of 100 years in business. Come join us – whether as a business partner, team member, resident or volunteer.
The story continues at www.Facebook.com/EbenezerMN
“A Tale of Two Grocery Stores”
…A Study in Customer Service
I often work late, and take advantage of picking up a meal at the grocery store on my way back home. Recently, it gave me the opportunity to see how two high end grocery stores handle customer service.
I walked into the first store. I was tired, my feet hurt from running all day, and just needed to get home to get a meal on the table for my family.
I quickly headed to the HOT food bar. Most of the items were gone (even though it was 5:45 p.m.), there was one container left to pack the food, and it was on the floor. When I asked a store employee about the lack of containers he responded “oh…I guess were out,” and walked away.
I grabbed something else and quickly loaded my items onto the conveyer belt to run through checkout. After I had unloaded most of my items the checkout person said – “I am done for the day – you need to bring your items over to the next lane.” Needless to say, when it was time to go shopping again, this store was not on my list.
Now for the second grocery store experience. I walked in and found a number of HOT food items, pleasantly displayed, along with a list of specials that I could take advantage of. As I pondered my options, a store employee asked if I need help with anything. “No, I said…I’m just thinking. “
“ Let me know if you change your mind – my name is Josh and I am happy to help,” he responded.
I made my way to the checkout. The clerk at the register asked if I came into the store regularly. I said I did. She told me there was a wine tasting the following week (she noticed I was purchasing Brie Cheese) and that some of the selection would pair beautifully with Brie.
As she continued scanning my items, she grabbed coupons for some of the things I was purchasing…to make sure I got the best deal.
After she collected my payment, she said “have a great night Susan,” she had made a point to look for my name on the check I gave her.
Some great customer service reminders with each of these shopping experiences:
· You never get a second chance to make a first impression
· Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals
· Always use their name and find a way to compliment them, promoting good feelings and trust.