By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The CEO of Aegis Living tells WSB that the new senior-living center his company plans to build at 47th/Admiral will be “something that West Seattle has not seen before.”
We talked with Redmond-headquartered Aegis’s CEO Dwayne Clark on Monday, the first opportunity he’d had for a conversation since we made the request upon discovering earlier this month that Aegis is buying the 1 1/2-acre site vacated by Life Care Centers of America almost a year ago.
Full plans for that “something” are still under development, says Clark. The deal isn’t set to close until year’s end, but they have a size and concept in mind:
The current building will be demolished and a new one built, Clark told WSB, with likely 72 to 80 units, some assisted living, some memory care.
The site holds significance, he added, for a variety of reasons. His wife, a former West Seattleite, lived “about six blocks from there” and they have lots of relatives here, including his mother-in-law. “There’s a lot of family pressure to get it right. … We have looked at West Seattle for a long, long time, and have probably turned down six sites there.” The intent, Clark says, is “not only ‘do we want to be in the community?’ but ‘what’s missing in the community?’ That’s what’s different about us, from the others.”
One thing missing in West Seattle, in Clark’s view, is a new senior-living complex; he rattles off the names of some of his future competitors and declares most of their buildings “old.” Not just the buildings – he also contends there’s a lack of “really new innovative, progressive programmatic space or programs, (for both) people with dementia and not with dementia.”
This isn’t his company’s only project under development; in addition to the 30 they have in three states, they have eight projects in the Seattle area, according to Clark, “more than 200 million dollars in development” – the closest are on Queen Anne, one opening soon and another one starting construction there shortly – though he says this is the only West Seattle project they envision for the foreseeable future.
Back to what they’re planning: Though Aegis of West Seattle (the expected name) won’t be devoted entirely to memory care, “it’s a specialty of ours,” Clark says, recalling his mother’s battle with dementia, which he chronicled in the book “My Mother, My Son.” “I’ve spent the better part of my adult life working with (people with) dementia … what we try to do in memory care is very, very different. … some of it so off-the-charts unique.”
Given the current understanding of what happens to the brain as dementia begins and progresses, Clark explains, “what we’re trying to do is build a programmatic environment that helps where the person’s at in their cognitive brain … One of the things we try to do (is to) invoke the moments of joy … trying to re-create memories … where they interact with people.”
Among the ways that’s been done at some Aegis facilities, he says, includes special features, such as one center where there’s a gourmet cooking kitchen, with stove and cookbooks and utensils, “so a person with severe cognitive disability might remember, ‘I did this on a daily basis’ … transforms that resident from a place of agitation to a place of comfort.” At their Marymoor location, Clark says, there’s a replica KOA Campground “with an Airstream trailer and ’57 Studebaker and camp fire and KOA sign … (evoking) a memory of what this kind of person did on vacations in ’50s and ’60s … People getting into the industry think it’s as simple as building an apartment building; it’s so much more sophisticated than that.” Events are involved too; Clark tells of a Woodstock party thrown for hundreds at one of their locations – 200 of the attendees were residents with dementia, he says, proudly.
Any specific theme in mind for West Seattle? Not yet, Clark says, but he’s thinking some kind of “water or marine theme,” given the proximity of Puget Sound. Maybe even inspired by Capri, Italy, where he says he and his wife love to vacation.
He details other components, such as furniture and decor, and staff training from “healing touch” to “psychology of the residents.” Aegis has a chief medical officer – not common among senior-living companies, according to Clark – and “100, 200 nurses on staff.”
Overall, he mentions a philosophy of “affordable luxury,” which he says fits the West Seattle zeitgeist per his mother-in-law: “I will tell you we won’t be the cheapest, but we will be the best, most creative, most capable.”
Aegis is a “for-real family company,” he adds, privately owned, and is “very involved in the local community.” He promises that goes for the residents too: “Too often we want to shut the door and say ‘that’s where the old sick people live … (but) we want to integrate our residents back into the community. … We think our residents want to do cool things like a 40-year-old would do.”
What’s next? As mentioned above, they expect to close the sale at year’s end. They have no designs to show right now, and city files show no application (yet), but they expect to get close to a final design within about three months of closing. The permit process from there could take more than a year, Clark says.