A Bright View

By on Aug 16, 2019 in People

Since opening its first community 20 years ago, Brightview Senior Living has established itself as a leading developer and operator of independent and assisted living and dementia care facilities across eight Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. The company, based in Baltimore, will open its 40th community by the end of 2019 and intends to continue opening three to five new communities annually.

Marilynn Duker

Marilynn Duker, CEO of Brightview, has spent much of her 27 years in the real estate business focused on the firm’s success. After completing a presidential internship for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she joined forces with a lawyer-turned-developer and began developing affordable, market- rate and mixed-income communities. The partnership soon added a property management arm that at one time oversaw some 22,000 units for clients. Eventually, the business expanded into senior housing and gradually disposed of the property management operation and apartments.

Tell us how Brightview began and why senior living appeals to you.

Duker: Senior living is really an operating business that happens to have real estate as a platform, so it’s much different than other real estate asset classes. Arnie Richman, who had built and ran a large nursing home company, joined us in the 1990s and brought the operating experience, and we had the development platform.

While we have grown significantly over the last 20 years, getting to scale wasn’t a big goal. Instead, it has always been about providing a high-quality experience to our residents. We have a lot of control over our destiny, too. The four business partners have owned 10 percent of every equity fund we’ve raised, and we have had tremendous repeat investment. (Brightview’s first fundraising effort in the 1990s attracted about $6 million.) Its most recent fund in 2017 topped out at $200 million. We know all of our investors and are under no obligation to ever sell communities, which is unlike other capital in the industry.

What is the most rewarding part of senior housing?

Duker: We’re offering people new possibilities and choices, often at a time when they are vulnerable and are feeling increased limitations in their lives. Tenants, on average, are 84 when they move in and often have had some type of event that is motivating them to make the move, such as the death of a spouse, the inability to take care of a house, or a fall. It’s also a business where we can really differentiate ourselves by our people and the relationships they form with our residents.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Duker: Just as people are our greatest strength and differentiator, they are also our greatest challenge. As we’ve scaled to eight states, we have more than 300 department heads and directors hiring housekeepers, resident care assistants, dining room staff and other frontline associates who work with residents everyday. As we’ve grown, we’ve focused on ensuring that all of those 300 people truly live and breathe Brightview’s culture and can assess whether a candidate has what it takes to be successful.

I also think that we’re in the toughest labor market anyone has every faced in the U.S. because of demographics. At the same time, a strong economy is driving up wages and making it difficult to find people. Six or seven years ago, people were walking in the door looking for work. Now we have to go find them. Additionally, construction costs have been significantly greater than the rate of inflation for five years now, and that means our projects cost more, so our rates have to be higher.

Read the rest of the story on the Multi-Housing News website.