From Vision to Reality: Mapping Out the Future at Aldersgate

[music]

Mike Peacock: Welcome back, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir.

Now, as we all know, this last year has been crazy, for sure – full of challenges, hardships, and sacrifice. Even though it’s easy to see everything as doom and gloom in an endless sea of hopelessness, the reality is that there are so many positive things in the world, so many things to remain hopeful for, so many things to be inspired by and, of course, so many things to look forward to.

Perhaps there is no other organization that better represents this persona of positivity than Aldersgate. In fact, in addition to their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity, Aldersgate is committed to developing plans that not only benefit its residents and the outlying communities on an immediate basis, but they are also in the midst of developing an epic Master Site Plan that completely reimagines the very definition of long-term care as we know it that will benefit people of all income levels, all ages, and all backgrounds for many generations to come.

Joining us today to talk about this very forward-thinking vision are Aldersgate CEO Suzanne Pugh, Shook Kelley Founding Partner and Principle Terry Shook, and Senior VP of Development from Laurel Street Residential Lee Cochran. Together, these three (along with some other partners as well) are working to make these dreams a reality. I’m excited to share this conversation with you, so let’s get to it.

Hi, Suzanne. Hi, Terry. Hi, Lee. Welcome to the show. Thank you all so much for joining me today.

Suzanne Pugh: Awesome to be here. Thank you, Mike.

Lee Cochran: Thanks for having me.

Terry Shook: Absolutely.

Mike: Honored to have you all here. Let’s get everyone a quick introduction just so our listeners know who we’re talking to. Suzanne, let’s start with you. Give us a refresher on your role here at Aldersgate.

Suzanne: Sure thing. Yeah, Suzanne Pugh, I’m the president and CEO. It’s really my privilege to be the president and CEO of Aldersgate Life Plan Services. We’re an organization with an array of aging services who have the mission of honoring elders and creating diverse and caring communities where everyone has voice and value.

I’ve spent my time here—I’m in my 25th year—on various capacities, and in my current capacity now for 10 years. Can you believe that, Terry? It has been ten years being able to sort of vision what comes next for Aldersgate, honor what’s been in place in the history, and really celebrate what’s happening here and now.

Mike: Awesome. Terry, how about you?

00:03:02)
Terry: Yes. I’m an architect, president of a firm known as Shook Kelley with offices in Charlotte and Los Angeles. Historically, I’ve focused my activities on a lot of placemaking, particularly for commercial developers, large town centers, and what have you.

Beginning with Suzanne and Aldersgate, we have really been shifting our focus upon the sector that I think is most important in our society, creating wonderful, energizing gathering places.

Mike: Sounds fantastic. Lee, tell us a little bit about yourself.

00:03:31
Lee: Sure. I’m Lee Cochran, Senior Vice President for Development for Laurel Street. Laurel Street is a Charlotte-based affordable and mixed-income housing developer. The company was started ten years ago by Dionne Nelson with an emphasis and mission to provide affordable mixed-income housing for families and elders across the southeastern United States.

We are in our tenth year of operations and we’ve developed over 3,500 units across the southeast, including Charlotte, with all of our developments having some level of mixed-income nature to everything we do. We serve through a variety of funding sources with local, state, federal, and private funding.

We do a variety of types of developments but all of them serve either families or elders and they all, as I said, have some level of mixed-income component to them. We’re thrilled to be Aldersgate’s partner in helping bring some of that same mixed-income housing to the Aldersgate community.

Mike: Very cool. That being said then, let’s really dig into the meat and potatoes of what this is all about. Suzanne, let’s start with you. Tell us all about this epic project. What is the Master Site Plan, when did you get the idea to do it, and why is it important to the vision and the culture at Aldersgate?

Suzanne: Yeah. First of all, I would not refer to it as a project. It’s a process.

Mike: Process.

Suzanne: Let me put that out that. Yeah, and I would even indicate that it’s a journey.

Mike: Got it.

Suzanne: We began this conversation. I think Terry and I can really stir up stuff, right?

Mike: [Laughter]

Suzanne: Terry, we create trouble for people in a really good way – positive disruptors. For Aldersgate, this journey really began about ten years ago where we were entertaining the possibility of needing to replace our skilled nursing center, our health center. We recognized that that was a hefty undertaking from a financial standpoint without new revenue, since it was a replacement. We also needed to really build out and bring up our gathering spaces. In order to pay for all that, we needed some additional revenue, some new revenue, and so we began thinking about development of our gateway residences.

As we began touching on that, as a board and leadership, we recognized that if we were going to make this $100 million investment in our campus here on Shamrock, which we’re really blessed to have 231 acres, and it has truly been a market distinction for us in terms of the site, it had been historically a market obstacle for us because it’s in an area of town that our traditional folks that we served pretty much had defined as being the proverbial wrong side of the tracks.

We had a lot of conversation and it was a period of deep discernment that if we were going to make that level of investment then we needed to answer, quite frankly, a much deeper question of, are we going to stay or are we going to go? We certainly could have gone to another area of Charlotte where all of our competitors are, purchased 15 acres of property, 20 acres of property, and pretty much been like our competitors—they’re wonderful colleagues with great services—or we could stay where we are (231 acres, the distinction of amazing green space, natural wetlands, and a stocked lack for fishing, and a five-acre azalea garden to walk through, and so much more). But if we were going to do that, then we had some very different philosophical positioning that needed to happen.

At the end of that discussion, which happened over a number of months with the board and leadership level, the decision was made that not only were we going to stay and make happen what needed to happen here, but it came with a condition from our board and leadership even that we would become a better neighbor in East Charlotte and with East Charlotte. That really is what set off our journey.

From that, there were the beginnings of conversations around how really homogenous our board and leadership were at that time. We were largely a board and leadership – well, we were almost entirely of white people, and we were serving entirely white people. At that point, we had not expanded our rehab services to the larger community at a significant level, and we had not had our homecare business at that time either, that offering in that regard.

We knew that the decision-makers at Aldersgate needed to become more reflective of the community that we were serving or that we could potentially serve that we hoped to serve. But we were very, very intentional about not wanting to do that in a way that was simply checking boxes of diversity. We’d seen that happen occasionally in our history. We’d seen that happen really all over the country by a lot of organizations, both in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. We made a decision that if it was going to occur at Aldersgate with any degree of authenticity, then we were going to have to become very intentional from the very beginning and that it was going to require some very difficult conversations and hard work.

At that point, we really kind of stepped into the vision of what could be if we were willing and able to put in the work to become an organization that was truly inclusive and really was envisioning a time where we were offering a true experience of equity across multiple dimensions of diversity: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomics. Historically, our traditional residents served have required to have resources to be able to afford the business model that had served our organization and our mission for over 70 years.

We recognized that our fee structure in itself was an intentional structural exclusion. Again, it served the business model and the mission, as it had been. But as our board and leadership began to rescope our mission and vision and values, we had much more intentionality around defining who we are and who we visioned ourselves to be. We changed our mission statement, changed our vision statement, and created core values that spoke much more intentionally to work of inclusion and truly embracing and honoring folks across many dimensions of diversity.

Once that work began, then it really made the work that we were doing with Terry and his team, frankly, a lot more fun—

Mike: [Laughter]

Suzanne: –because you really start to see – not that Terry is never fun. He’s a fun dude.

Mike: Right.

Suzanne: But you really begin to see the art of the possible. That included a lot of where we’ve landed around embracing our place in East Charlotte and within our campus; a story that was lived out—that is being lived out—around much greater connection points with our community around us and, frankly, really positioning ourselves distinctly as the community of choice for folks that were not looking necessarily for a very traditional experience on a life plan campus.

That’s sort of how the seed was planted. Terry, you might want to talk a little bit about how that story has sort of expanded and grown over the years around really embracing who we are.

Terry: Gosh. I have to follow you, Suzanne? Was that not wonderful?

[Laughter]

Suzanne: Yeah, that sucks for you, Terry.

Terry: I mean, gee-whiz.

Suzanne: Good luck, bud.

Terry: Gee-whiz. I know. I mean it’s almost biblical.

Suzanne: I believe in you.

Terry: You’re starting here going over a thousand years of history there.

It’s interesting. Let me add a few more things to that, Suzanne, if I can.

First off, for the listeners, is that we are not historically consultants to the now life plan community sector. I owe that to Suzanne that we got into this. Suzanne was smart enough – and I think it’s just intuition, whatever, but you had the more traditional and very good consultants helping with your strategic plan who are really the top in your industry.

We came at it in a different way, and it was really a parallel process because our process, we do a lot of consumer psychographic studies for a lot of people in the consumer products industry. Basically, we shrink heads, and we look at the motivations, the fears, the dreams that people have for a better life.

We had done a fair amount of work for other companies in the boomer sector and what the transition means. I think and hope that we were able to bring basically additive insights to what Suzanne already knew.

Suzanne: Absolutely.

Terry: That’s how I think we really bonded. The other part of our practice, though, is that, yes, I’m an architect. But in some ways, we consider ourselves anti-architects. I’ll probably have my fellowship jerked from me for saying this—

Mike: [Laughter]

Suzanne: [Laughter]

Terry: –if the people hear it, but we really do practice beyond the building. We practice urban design. We really are community builders in the work that we’ve done.

When Suzanne presented us this bigger, better vision for an Aldersgate, it dovetailed quite nicely into what we already see.

There is also a movement out there, which we introduced to Suzanne, called a NORC. Now, it sounds like something that you ought to be locked up for—narcotics or something—but NORC stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. With so much land on the east side, it gave us the mechanism for Aldersgate, the traditional life plan community standpoint, to find a way to knit into the broader East Charlotte community. It’s everything Suzanne described. It allowed Suzanne and Aldersgate to expand their offerings beyond the limitations of what you’d find in the well-run life plan communities.

It means that there are many things on the table in terms of housing choices and options, and then also gathering places that are beyond what the fee-based model might offer to residents and citizens. With that, I think it’s a good time, Lee, for you to come in because Lee, in terms of that overall vision that’s been crafted, Lee is the first and a very key provider within this new naturally occurring retirement community that has been launched by Aldersgate.

Suzanne: Lee, before you step in, one other piece, Terry. You talked about gathering places. Part of what we did, instead of assuming that we knew what the East Charlotte community would want or need, was we had facilitated story circles—

Terry: Yes, absolutely.

Suzanne: –out among a larger East Charlotte, as well as within the Aldersgate campus, and really wanted to glean from that, those feedback circles, what were people identifying that were the gaps in this area. The two things that came through very, very loudly, and clearly were housing for low and middle-income elders and also these third spaces, places for a community to be able to come together (outdoors and indoors) in this East Charlotte area.

We knew that those were spaces that we really wanted to be able to try to create an experience across our master site planning. Lee has certainly been a vital partner in that now.

Lee: Well, I appreciate the introduction and the lead-up because Laurel Street is thrilled to be a part of just one small part of such an exciting vision. In many ways, it’s the ideal partnership for Laurel Street.

Laurel Street’s DNA, we’ve been doing this for ten years and partnerships is part of our DNA. Almost all of our projects involve some partnership with nonprofits, churches, cities, counties. What we’ve grown to see ourselves as, we’re a tool, experts and a tool, to help a nonprofit (an organization or a church) realize their vision.

Obviously, more than probably any other development we’ve worked on, this is a vision that is comprehensive, very well thought out, and has taken many, many years to bring together. We were thrilled to be selected to be part of it because, really, what our role is and our goal is to take the vision that Suzanne and Aldersgate and Terry and others have put together and help them realize just one portion of that.

We’re experts at bringing together financing, design professionals, and all the things that it takes (public and private sources) to create affordable and mixed-income housing. But we do it in a way that is consistent with the vision of our partner. We are not a cookie-cutter, “Hey, here is what we do. Here are the buildings we do.” What we like to do, I always say, we’ve built buildings as big as 115 units in one building down to 2-unit buildings because, to some degree, the design, the architecture, and the site planning is really about doing the vision that a partner has. But what we bring to that table is the expertise in developing a very niche product, which is affordable and mixed-income housing, with all the different development sources that go into that.

This is one that really allows us to exercise our brain muscles because it kind of includes everything, almost everything we do. It involves a component of traditional, affordable housing, which is developed through the low-income housing tax credit. That helps us develop mixed-income housing across the income spectrum. It also allows us to offer a product for what we call middle-income seniors, seniors that make just a little bit too much to qualify for traditional affordable housing but not enough to sometimes afford some of the senior elder products that are out there right now.

At the same time, we get to add a small component of housing for families, of folks that may work at Aldersgate or work close in the community. We can bring all of that together into one master plan.

Finally, I’d say the most exciting thing for us is we have done a lot of this type of housing over the years, but usually, a little bit in a vacuum, not working with someone who is an expert in serving elders. What we think is exciting is that we get to do our traditional product, our product, but we get to rely on the expertise of Aldersgate to bring some services to those residents that we traditionally aren’t able to bring. We can offer them a great place to live in a building that’s designed for their needs but bringing some of the services in and using the resources and assets of Aldersgate, we think, is going to be a great partnership, so we’re thrilled to be a part of it.

Mike: That all sounds absolutely amazing. Just to make sure that I understand this myself, is this going to be, Suzanne, something that is on the current Shamrock site then? Will you be expanding things onto that property, or will there be outlying areas as well that take part in this process?

Suzanne: Currently, this plan is at the front of our Shamrock property. The life plan community sits back in kind of more toward the central area of our campus. Historically, we’ve actually been using, over the last five or six years (prior to COVID), the front of our campus to host things like the International Sandwich Festival, which really is a big festival where the neighborhood is invited in.

We have sandwich trucks, and we have entertainment across many different ethnic communities. It’s a super fun day. I think, two years ago, we had 4,000 folks here from the local community, and so we’ve created more organically that third space opportunity.

This piece is at the front of our Shamrock campus. We certainly would hope for and envision the opportunities for the folks at the entrance fee campus, at the Aldersgate Shamrock campus to be in community with the folks at the campus that we’re developing up with Laurel Street, opportunities to have new neighbors and new friends, and more connection with the larger Charlotte East community.

Beyond that, we’re just going to see what happens next. We are so grateful for the partnership with Laurel Street in this regard. First of all, we were very intentional about seeking out and appreciating the relationship with an organization that is African American, female-owned, highly respected, and with a great track record of providing really high-quality housing and living experiences. We hope to see what comes next after the Shamrock experience.

One of the things that did strike me, as Lee was talking too, one of the reasons that we felt really strongly that we needed to have, we absolutely wanted to have, housing available for lower-income families and elders, but we also really recognized that there is going to be an almost frightening need that is on the near horizon for that middle-income elder demographic with 10,000 people a day turning 65 and the baby boomers just having really started retiring.

We’re in for another 16, 17 years of the baby boomers coming into retirement. Having participated in scenario planning, alternative scenario planning with the Institute for Alternative Futures a couple of years back, there is an absolute alternative future scenario that includes a large population of homeless elders that come largely from the middle income that aren’t going to qualify for some of the product offerings, the residential offerings that lower-income elders might, and they’re not going to be eligible for a traditional life plan community fee structure.

We felt really strongly, and I’m always so grateful that Lee and Terry immediately grabbed onto that as well, that that middle-income elder market really needed an opportunity for an amazing living experience as well. I think that it’s a good partnership the whole way around that really will serve and feed a community that has a need in this regard and a desire. It’s need-based, but it’s also something that we want to do. We’re super excited about it.

Mike: I definitely now understand why you clarified earlier that this is not a project; this is a true process.

Suzanne: Yes.

Mike: Clearly, this is not something that you can put a traditional timeline on now, is it?

Suzanne: No, it’s not. Terry could probably speak to that better than I can from a logistics standpoint. Just philosophically, there has been a year’s long and continuing cultural shift within Aldersgate just simply—and that’s a loose description of a word—simply by embracing a real philosophy of inclusion and equity because our board would never have put their eyes on this for consideration had there not been a very intentional and deep work around what’s in the ground of Aldersgate, what’s in the ground of each board member or each leadership team member, and the historical ground of the organization that led to this type of decision made.

Similarly, our life plan community that we’re developing on the Shalom Park campus, it’s a culturally Jewish retirement community. That would not have been in the sights of our board for decisions had we not done that work. That in itself is a deep and ongoing intentional body of work and truly a journey that has to underpin the ability to move forward with this type of planning and execution as well.

Mike: Terry, did you want to add anything to that?

Terry: Yeah, I would. This is why Suzanne reacted so vociferously when you used the word project.

[Laughter]

Terry: It really is. We are embarking on a 15- or 20-year building of a new community. I don’t use that word lightly.

Suzanne: Yes.

Terry: I come from the private sector where housing developers through community around when they do subdivisions as if it’s like laying on a secret sauce when it’s just a word. The reality is, from our standpoint since again I do a lot of urban design and a lot of community process, that we truly are knitting in the historical Aldersgate life plan community into an existing, stabilized, but changing residential all around us.

Suzanne: Mm-hmm.

Terry: As Suzanne said earlier, this coming out of the shell for Aldersgate was a very patient and studied process. We went through—using scenario planning techniques—

Suzanne: Yes.

Terry: –a various number of alternative futures for the board. Basically, four of them. One of them was do nothing and sit here.

Suzanne: Right.

Terry: We went through all that modeling and what that might be financially just to stay cloistered inside this wonderful piece of real estate all the way through.

Suzanne: Terry, I might even, in full transparency, use the word “barricaded” inside, right? That just had to stop.

Mike: When we talk about a new Aldersgate, we’re really talking about a constantly evolving and always working process.

Suzanne: Yes.

Mike: It’s not that there is even really necessarily an endgame. From my perspective from the outside, it’s designed to be something that is always moving things forward. Am I understanding that correctly? Am I on the right track?

Suzanne: Yes, because we’re human beings. Life doesn’t end just with a generation. It continues to move forward. Heaven knows everything we’ve learned in a year of 2020 has evolved us into thinking differently and doing differently and how creativity burst out of a lot of places that we may have thought never existed, adaptability, and all of that.

Yes, it was funny. I remember vividly the days when a strategic plan was literally in a notebook on a shelf.

Mike: [Laughter]

Suzanne: It had a five-year timeframe on it, so that meant you pulled it out in five years or four and a half. Right?

Mike: Right.

Suzanne: It’s crazy, right? Our strategic thinking and planning is constant. It is a constant review, evaluation, evolution, research because folks are always going to want more and different. Expectations don’t stay the same your whole life.

I love that, with Lee and Terry, we are building these residences, housing for older adults, but we are helping to create space where the older adults can define their lives where it’s much less prescriptive and it’s much more about folks being able to really be who they are at this point in their life. We want to be able to support that across generations and across other aspects of diversity, which I’ve got to push this out there that every time that we talk about diversity, it seems like the one -ism that continues to get overlooked is ageism.

Mike: Yeah, for sure.

Suzanne: Ageism falls on both ends of the age spectrum, but it’s the -ism that crosses every other -ism. My hope is that the elders that are part of this wonderful community that we’re partnering with Laurel Street and Shook Kelley to develop, that they are in community with folks across every generation and that they’re being honored for the decisions that they want to make as community.

Yeah, it’s exciting. To your point, I think the words like “project” and “program” are probably just becoming antiquated because they imply an end.

Mike: Yeah, absolutely.

Lee: If I may add something, I think this has been fascinating, as you can imagine. I love listening to Suzanne and Terry talk.

Mike: Yeah, right.

Lee: And just being a part of that conversation and how that works. Something that I thought about as they were talking was, we are Laurel Street recognize that we kind of have an awesome responsibility in that our development will only be 8 to 9 acres of a 231-acre campus. But as kind of the next thing to be built, and kind of a very prominent development that will be right up on Shamrock and right at the entrance to the community, we recognize we’re going to somewhat set the tone and the tenor for the next part of that plan. As you described it as a living plan—

Suzanne: Yes.

Lee: –in many respects, how well we do, what we build, how well it’s received, and the great new third spaces that we create as part of that first phase of this next step I think will really influence what the next phase is after that. We don’t really know what comes exactly after Laurel Street, we build our community because, to some respect, what we build may change what the next phase is.

Suzanne: Yeah. No pressure, Lee.

[Laughter]

Lee: Yeah, I know.

[Laughter]

Lee: I think I described it as awesome responsibility. Fear is the other word I could use.

Mike: Fear is a good word.

Lee: We kind of relish that.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Lee: I think that’s what’s exciting is that we get to do good work, the work we do all the time, but we did get to do it in a unique way. Then we get to see what happens after that, so we’re excited about that.

Suzanne: Yeah, it’s exciting.

Mike: Yeah, for sure. For some reason, the phrase pops into my head. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. “If you build it, they will come.”

Lee: Yeah.

Mike: Although, with a process like this, there’s way more to it than can be summed up quite that simply. There are so many things that I have heard about this topic. Now that I have had the honor to speak with you all about it, it’s really all finally falling into place in my head.

I would imagine from the perspectives of all of you involved, the challenge is really probably communicating the scope of something like this, like, how does it get implemented and what can we expect as a community? Who wants to take on answering that question? What can the community, the greater community, expect from something like this occurring in their area?

Suzanne: I’ll start and then you guys please do put your voice in this. Again, in full transparency, we would be really remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that there is a degree of that nimbyism that always—

Mike: Uh, not in my backyard.

Suzanne: Yeah, right, exactly, that is always sort of a topic of conversation that will occur in these types of initiatives. And so, we’ve done a lot of education. I think our chief strategy officer has probably had close to 50 meetings among our life plan community residents, out in neighborhood associations. Of course, we’ve had some community Zooms with the larger community to hear from our neighbors.

Part of what my hope would be that folks would feel is being lived out as an expectation is that people will have their voices in this. It was part of what built the vision were story circles and hearing folks who were coming through our doors specifically for the life plan community campus, realizing that it was not within their resources to be able to live there, and being able to just, I guess, maybe put our fingerprint around being able to serve more elders, a different demographic than we’ve historically served, which really only enrichens us, really the life of our mission.

From Aldersgate’s perspective, I think you should expect beyond buildings. Field of Dreams is top three for me, believe me. I don’t want to just build it and they will come. I want that we’re going to create this community and you come help us write the story.

Mike: Love that.

Suzanne: It’s really what I would hope for. Yeah, and then feel free, guys. Talk a little bit more about what can be expected maybe more concretely as well.

Lee: I’ll get a little bit more micro when it comes to what can folks expect, and I’ll back up a little bit to something you said earlier about if they build it, they will come.

A couple of years ago, we recognized that there really wasn’t a product being offered in Charlotte or, frankly, the whole southeast that we could find that allowed folks kind of in the middle, the middle-income senior, that didn’t qualify for some traditional federally funded affordable housing programs but couldn’t afford a life plan community. They didn’t really have a lot of options. They basically had to rent an apartment designed for a 25-year-old. [Laughter]

Suzanne: Yes.

Lee: With all the amenities designed for the young. And so, we kind of took a leap of faith and said, “We think there’s a product there. There’s a community there,” but we weren’t sure until we built it. We’ve built two so far with more in the pipeline, so we know it’s something that can work and we know that it’s something that’s important to provide.

More importantly, I think the next phase of figuring out what that means is effectively what we’re offering is an independent living rental unit for middle and moderate-income seniors to come live while they can live independently. But I think the great opportunity is to see how does that evolve over the next 20 years because if we could physically design a community that is very accessible, that’s elevator served and every unit is handicap accessible, we can solve one issue with kind of aging in place, but we need to start adding services.

As those initial folks that move in, as they age and require more services, how can we work with folks like Aldersgate or just community partners to allow folks to live as long as they can in place? You can imagine the seniors that would love to live in their single-family house as long as they can. But eventually, physically, they can’t.

We can solve that physical problem. We can put them in a community where they can live and get around and be mobile. They can walk. But over time, we have to work with our residents to envision what that means as the years go by. That’s, to us, one of the exciting things over the next 10 or 20 years is, how does this type of community evolve to where we can continue to allow folks to age in place and stay in the communities in which they live?

Frankly, we like to place these communities in older, established neighborhoods where folks have lived maybe for 20, 30, 40 years. Maybe their kids have moved to be closer to them and they don’t want to leave. They don’t want to leave that neighborhood and have to drive 30 miles away to find a community. To us, this is a great place for folks that live in East Charlotte to take that next step in their life and to the next place they want to live. To us, that’s the exciting part of the product that we’re offering.

The final thing I’ll say is, what’s really exciting about this is, what we can say is, in the development that we’re building, anyone that wants to live in our development will have a place to live.

Suzanne: Yes.

Lee: Because we have units that serve incomes from very low income to unrestricted, anyone that looks at that building and says, “I want to live there,” is eligible to live there. That’s not something we’ve always been able to do. Certain programs we can only offer to certain incomes. This is a perfect community where we can say, “Whoever wants to live here can live here.”

Suzanne: You see why we got these partners we got. Right, Mike?

Mike: [Laughter] Oh, my God. Right.

Suzanne: Yeah.

Mike: You guys are unbelievable.

Suzanne: Yeah. Yeah. One of the things, as Lee was talking, that just screams out to me, we’ve always known but what has absolutely been validated in this last year is the importance of social connection and the devastation of isolation with older adults that can occur.

Mike: Yeah.

Suzanne: Again, we know that these types of opportunities and sense of community, true community, really are what give people life. I think, to Lee’s point, as long as we can allow people to be where they are, they can safely be where they are, and that they define safe at some level, that it provides people the chance to be with the people that they know and care about for as long as possible and, hopefully, for as long as they live, quite frankly.

Mike: Yeah. Well, I have received quite the education today from all of you. This is something that I think that once you wrap your head around it, it’s hard to not be excited about it. That being said, is there anything else we haven’t covered that we need to make sure we include here today?

Suzanne: Terry? Lee?

Lee: I was going to kick it a little to Terry because he’ll do better at describing this. I think, to some degree, we focused somewhat on the development that Laurel Street is going to develop, but I think it’s worth talking, Terry, a little bit about what’s the vision for the rest of the area along Shamrock. We’ll only be a portion of that.

Suzanne: Mm-hmm.

Lee: What is the vision for the rest of what’s going to be developed as the next phases come into place?

Terry: Sure. I’d be more than happy to do that. Suzanne, is that okay? Do you want to talk about the other pieces?

Suzanne: Yes. Sure. Go right ahead.

Terry: Okay.

Suzanne: You go right ahead.

Terry: Okay. Good. Well, I do think it’s worth talking about the other pieces of this plan. Now that we’re talking about a community, it is going to be the place where a number of people can come and grow old. It’s also a place where people can come young and grow into a community that fights against all of the different stereotypes that we’ve had, not the least of one is aging.

Imagine this place. We’re developing a real community. In this community, people can elect to come in and be a part of others in a community that has a single-family flavor to it but will be different. It won’t just be single-family homes alone. It will have duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes.

To define that term for those that might not be familiar with it, it’s a two-unit, three-unit, or four-unit housing complex that looks like, in many ways, a single-family home.

Mike: Oops. It looks like there’s been a glitch in the matrix. We have lost Terry momentarily. Luckily, I’ve got some of his thoughts right here in front of me. Terry, if it’s okay with you, I’m just going to go ahead and finish your sentiment there.

Terry was mentioning that there are also going to be some smaller homes that are part of a courtyard concept, as well as a multifamily component where anyone can live. Some elements will not necessarily be age-targeted. There’ll be a place where other people might want to live simply because it’s just a cool community.

There will also be a small town center that will comprise of neighborhood services that everyone wants to use, such as a few small restaurants, a place to get your hair cut (like a stylist or a beauty parlor), perhaps even a pharmacy and a market. Basically, great places that are not necessarily only a part of the Aldersgate LPC.

In the middle of all of that, imagine a beautiful town square, a place where you can go and meet friends or make new ones. As Lee said, a place where people can age in place.

Really, what Terry was talking about is an all-inclusive residential, retail, restaurant, social, and enriching community where everyone can live their best life.

Suzanne, did you want to add anything else to that?

Suzanne: Well, I think just that we look forward and are already in great conversations with our current nonprofit partners that are on our campus now, places like UMAR and Our BRIDGE, after school to defining and visioning how they can continue to be part of this community here on our campus. To Terry’s point, we really want to honor local businesses. We love the thought of having more locally-grown businesses part of this vision.

I think, ultimately, I guess in my thinking, being in a culture that has not traditionally really honored elders (largely in America) the way many cultures do, particularly in more kind of the traditional WASP America, we feel like there is just such opportunity because of the aging, the residential housing that we have for older adults. It’s such a great opportunity for some of the younger folks that will be part of this larger development, this larger community, to be in relationship with older adults in cases where they may not be on a day-to-day basis.

Maybe they moved here for work and their parents live somewhere else in the country, or maybe they immigrated here from another country and their family is back home. There is great opportunity for these relationships with older adults to really build, develop, and allow for the mutual benefit to occur in that relationship building. I think, probably from my perspective, I would say allow for all the other generations to really embrace the gift that older adults bring into relationships.

Mike: Yeah. That’s a whole lot of awesomeness right there. Well, thank you all so much for engaging me in this conversation, for educating me, for educating the listeners, and letting us know all of the cool things that we can expect from Aldersgate, Laurel Street, and Shoot Kelley in the not so distant future – however long it takes. This is, again, a living, breathing thing that will be ongoing until the end of time. [Laughter]

Suzanne: Yes.

Mike: Right?

Suzanne: [Laughter]

Mike: I’m looking forward to seeing all the progress and the evolution. Lee, Terry, Suzanne, thank you again so much for joining me today on Aldersgate OnAir. Make sure that you keep me updating on everything so that we can let the world know just what is going on.

Suzanne: Sounds awesome! Thank you, and thank you, Lee and Terry, as well. Thanks so much, Mike.

Lee: Thank you all. I really appreciate the time. Thank you.

Suzanne: All right. Y’all take care.

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Mike: Thanks, of course, to all of you out there in podcast and radio land for not forgetting about us and for tuning in to hear this epic conversation. Now I know it’s been a while since our last episode, but we had to take a little break because of life and stuff. But things are slowly starting to get back to normal and we should be able to resume our somewhat regular schedule here before too long.

Wasn’t it worth the wait? I know I am excited, as always, about the awesome things that Aldersgate has up their sleeves and you should be too. Trust me. There is a ton of moving and shaking going on around here.

Don’t forget. Send us your questions, comments, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and words of wisdom to [email protected] Until next time, stay safe, stay sane, and stay tuned to Aldersgate OnAir.

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