Proposed Senior Living Community Will Be Horse of a Different Color

Rendering - The Hacienda at The River, Tucson

David Freshwater • Published in the May 2012 issue, Trend Report AZ

Grooming, feeding and exercising, on first blush, don’t sound much different from what you’d expect to find in a stereotypical assisted living or nursing home—until you realize I’m talking about the horses. Older horses need a place to thrive, too, after all. That’s why, if we have our way, the next senior living community Freshwater Group builds in Tucson will include equestrian trails traversing the property and equine therapy (riding and grooming) with visiting horses from across the Rillito wash.

And that’s just part of what will make The Haciendas at The River, our latest senior living community, a horse of a different color.

Our first community, The Fountains at La Cholla, opened in Tucson in 1987 and has expanded several times to serve a current capacity of some 400 residents in northwest Tucson. Today, Freshwater and business partner, David Barnes, along with close to 4,000 associates coast to coast, operate 27 communities under the banner of Watermark Retirement Communities.

After nearly 25 years of changing the face of retirement living, we are excited about building close to home again. By working with other known innovators in their fields, we intend to combine the following latest trends into the project:

  • Hospitality model vs. hospital model nursing care. Rehabilitation patients will liken their experience to a stay at a boutique hotel, with chef-prepared meals featuring healthy yet delicious cuisine, choices of dining venues and plenty of interesting things to do outside of one’s room from taking a yoga class to watching a movie in the on-site theater.
  • Professionally-managed assisted living and memory care in a home setting. Residents will benefit from the intimate scale and the quality personalized care of a board and care home model coupled with professionally trained staff as found traditionally in a large-scale operation.
  • Pet therapy. From horses to dogs, cats, birds and fish, house pets at the Haciendas will contribute to every dimension of human wellness.
  • Healing spaces. Integrating biology with the science of environmental design, Freshwater will create spaces that are naturally healing. Sensitivity to the desert riparian landscape will be demonstrated through rainwater harvesting and gray water systems, passive and active solar systems, and environmentally-sensitive building materials and finishes. Therapeutic programs will include sustainable gardening with on-site gardens, greenhouse and orchards.

Centrally located at the gateway to the Foothills at the corner of Hacienda Del Sol and River Road, the site is quite literally close to home. It’s also close to my heart. The stables that once occupied the property, now long gone, were where my wife, Diana, used to ride and train horses while attending the University of Arizona. She went on to a career in conservation after obtaining her degree in landscape architecture while I put my degrees in real estate finance and architecture to good use. Both of us have been thinking long and hard about the Haciendas. Here’s our vision:

The outside will feel like an old ranch property with mature mesquites and other riparian canopy trees creating shade for the numerous adobe-walled courtyards. Decomposed granite driveways will lead to each of four, one-story Haciendas. Inside each will be a great room and kitchen along with 14 bedrooms to accommodate 14 to 16 residents. In these four Haciendas, trained Watermark associates will help residents thrive within an uplifting atmosphere of assisted living and memory care. On the opposite side of the site will be medical office buildings and an upscale skilled nursing center featuring all private rooms with two state-of-the-art rehab centers that will include a 3500-square foot area for physical and occupational therapies including an indoor therapy pool. The architecture and landscaping will reflect the best of Tucson’s heritage including site features that reflect the influence of local architects such as Josiah Joesler and a palette of native plant materials.

This is truly a legacy project for us, a place where we envision living or rehabbing ourselves when the need arises someday. There’s no reason assisted living and nursing can’t look and be delivered in this fresh new way. The Haciendas at The River will be the best and most innovative community in the nation.

Assisted living at The Haciendas at the River will cost approximately $4,000–$6,000 a month and memory care will cost slightly more. The nursing center will accept payments from Medicare and HMOs as well as private pay, starting around $400 to 500 per day.

David Freshwater has been involved in the seniors housing industry since 1985 when he founded The Fountains, a company known for its turnaround expertise. After growing its portfolio to 19 communities, in July of 2005, The Fountains sold the majority of its assets and operations to Sunrise Senior Living. David subsequently formed The Freshwater Group and Watermark Communities to fulfill his dream of developing a new breed of resident-centered communities based on the seven dimensions of wellbeing. Watermark has grown to one of the 20 largest seniors housing operators in the nation with 31 communities under management. David has an undergraduate degree in architecture from Miami University and a Masters Degree in Finance from the University of Arizona.

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