The CEO of Griffin Living is creating a new style of high-quality, yet affordable, assisted living communities for active seniors.
Paul Griffin III, a fifth-generation member of the Griffin family homebuilding empire, has developed more than 4.5 billion in value throughout his career in real estate. In 2015, he launched Griffin Living in Calabasas, Calif., which specializes in innovative senior housing.
“California has been an amazingly dynamic place for us since the early 20th century, as Hollywood grew up, oil was discovered, technology continuously reinvented the future, and people kept moving here from all over the world,” he says.
“My father’s generation was the first to go into the suburban markets and work with municipalities that treated development as a privilege, not a right, and he showed that we could do a better job, building high-quality homes with beautiful landscaping and becoming an important part of the community.”
His father handed him the reins of Griffin Residential in 1992. His siblings, and now his children, nieces, and nephews are involved in the family business. Griffin III emphasized impressive architecture and engineering in master plans that had 700 to 1000 homes, schools, shopping centers, and houses of worship.
Each neighborhood has distinctive designs and elements within the company’s model of affordable quality. Griffin III oversaw the creation of Riverwalk in Riverside, turning a giant piece of neglected land with a run-down trailer park and nursery into a model community of homes, office buildings, shopping centers, and parks, with a river through it all.
“There was no capital available until we worked with a Chinese developer and the country’s import-export bank, who wanted our help in creating high-quality senior housing for their aging population,” he says. “They agreed to provide the $40 million we needed to turn the remaining units into a community for active seniors, with a gym, fitness classes, spa, restaurants, and other amenities. We received a Gold Award for the project from the National Association of Home Builders.”
This led to the founding of Griffin Living to meet the needs of those who can’t afford the luxury of what is known as independent living and may need assistance from time to time. “Seniors don’t want to be warehoused on their way to a nursing home,” he says, “They deserve so much better.”
“Many want to stay active while they age,” he adds, “so we provide multiple restaurants within each community, computerized gym equipment with the right resistance for seniors, movie nights, cooking demonstrations, music performances, yoga, speed dating, and classes of all kinds. These are broadcast on CCTV and broadcast for virtual participation by those who can’t leave their rooms. This is high-quality assisted living for a range of residence, from those who just want the convenience of someone doing their laundry and preparing their meals to some who need help with their medication or memory care.”
Griffin Living opens these communities under the auspices of their senior living brand, Varenita. A recent development, Varenita of Simi Valley, won a Gold Award and has 45 residents ready to move into the 95 units. Griffin already owned the shopping center on the same piece of land. Seeing an opportunity for innovation – putting senior living in a retail center to promote active and independent lifestyles – Griffin invested $8 million to make it happen. Residents of Simi Valley will be able to walk within the center to the CVS Pharmacy, grocery store, popular restaurants, a dentist, a hair salon, and other businesses.
“Often the decision-maker about aging parents is a daughter who lives in the area and wants to be able to bring the family to visit for dinner or let the kids see grandma and then play around the turtle pool while mom shops,” Griffin says. “It’s like an old-fashioned town center and our residents love to watch the crowds.”
Another $2 million was spent on a top-of-the-line air circulation system for the building. While Griffin was initially interested in the system for the energy efficiency and fresh air exchanges it brought throughout the community, its benefits became especially salient during the pandemic. The systems filter the air to N-95 mask-level quality. This system cannot be retrofitted, so Griffin is confident that this will remain an advantage to seniors and distinguish Varenita from competitors for some time.
Asked about what’s in store next for Varenita and Griffin Living, Griffin notes, “In the suburban areas there is not nearly enough affordable high-quality, assisted living residences for seniors across the range of needs. We have a tremendous amount of research about the rising demand from an aging population that is affluent. We’re not trying to compete with independent living at the luxury level, but if someone is expecting to spend $6000-$8000 a month for assisted living at one of the branded projects, for perhaps $250-$500 more we can offer outstanding service and next-generation technology.”
In various stages of approval and development are active senior residences in Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Mirage, Santa Clarita, Westlake Village, and Temecula.
Griffin says, “We’re bracing for the tidal wave of demand for active seniors who want to enjoy this next phase of their life, providing assistance and a beautiful environment in which to thrive.”
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