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VOL. 126 | NO. 81 | Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Despite Opposition, Solana Moves Forward

By Sarah Baker

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Despite neighborhood opposition and zoning hurdles, a new Germantown senior living facility promises a unique concept and dozens of amenities.

The Solana – a 182-unit senior living facility at 8199 Poplar Ave. east of Kimbrough Road in Germantown – has recently broken ground and is shooting for a late summer 2012 opening.

The derivative of the word “solana” means a sunny place or spot, said Mark Mayberry, executive vice president of Formation Development Group LLC. This will be the second “Solana” venture from the Alpharetta, Ga.-based investment group.

“Our thinking was it’s a nice image – whether it’s like the one we opened in October ’09 in Katy, Texas, or in Germantown – it gives the image of people being able to find the sunny side of the valley or a sunny spot on the mountain, a sun room, or things like that,” he said.

While the idea for a senior living facility is nothing novel, demand in the area exists for The Solana’s concept, Mayberry said.

“There’s some very nice senior living in and around Germantown already, but we think there’s room for a high-quality, unique, fun building and we’re very excited to bring that to Germantown,” Mayberry said. “So far we’ve had a great response.”

The project will feature 130 independent-living units, 33 assisted-living units and 19 memory-care units. Additional amenities include public areas, an indoor pool, a restaurant and wine bar, fitness center, theater, computer center, art studio, outdoor fountain and fire pit, and a courtyard area with bocce court and putting green. There will even be recreational areas for dog-walking.

The architect assigned to the project is Dallas-based three Architecture, and the general contractor is Atlanta-based Rogers Construction Co.

“It (the word ‘Solana’) gives the image of people being able to find the sunny side of the valley or a sunny spot on the mountain, a sun room, or things like that.”

– Mark Mayberry,
Formation Development Group LLC

Austin, Texas-based Studio Six 5 is completing The Solana’s interior design. Though the architectural firm is the same as the first Solana project, the Germantown facility will be unique to the area, Mayberry said.

“In Germantown, we’re doing more of a traditional landscape – it’ll have some elements of colonial design, the French country look which you see up and down the Mississippi,” Mayberry said. “Our architect is not only known for senior living but for boutique hotels, and we really like that mix of disciplines that they bring to the project.”

Another shining attribute The Solana will bring to the table is its various configurations and floor plans. The independent living will offer about 15 apartment styles, including one- and two-bedrooms with dens and covered carport options. The assisted living and memory care units will have about six design options.

“We’ve found that our customers don’t just want one or two choices,” Mayberry said. “In a lot of older senior-living projects, you’ll see one room that’s a square and your other choice is a slightly larger rectangle, that’s really all the variety you have.”

Depending on apartment size and location within the building, starting rent is expected to range from about $2,800 to $4,500 a month. All prices include a continental breakfast and one full meal a day, with the option to purchase the second meal. The package also includes services such as housekeeping, maintenance, utilities, activities and transportation.

The building sits 60 feet off of Poplar Avenue – the setback requirement – with the bulk of parking around the sides and rear. At any given time, about 25 staff members will be in the building, with a roster of about 50 to 75 including part- and flex-time employees.

But it’s that last figure that initially raised concerns for the neighborhood. When Formation Development filed its $19 million building permit in November with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement, it was faced with a difficult zoning process, mostly from the project’s neighbor to the south, Dogwood Creek.

“They are a cut-through route between Poplar Avenue and Hacks Cross (Road) for a lot of folks that are commuting down to the FedEx headquarters location,” Mayberry said. “Those neighbors were already feeling before we came along that they had too much traffic for a residential neighborhood, and so their worry was that our project would exacerbate the traffic concern.”

At the request of the city, the group did a traffic study by Dr. Ernest Nichols, associate professor in the department of marketing and supply chain management at the University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business and Economics. Nichols did two studies based on calculations of the Institute of Traffic Engineers’ general standards, and also brought in some of his students to visit other senior living in the area to check the other locations’ traffic and parking scenarios.

“Typically, a senior-living-type of facility generates less traffic than, say, a comparable apartment development because people just don’t drive as much,” Nichols said. “We thought we were in a good position; we had some solid numbers to present to the city.”

And his efforts paid off. After its anticipated three-month site-work period, The Solana will open its information center outfitted with samples of finishes and kitchen equipment, flat-screen TV displays, brochures and, most importantly, a marketing team that will engage in community outreach and giving tours.

PROPERTY SALES 0 133 1,342
MORTGAGES 0 131 1,047