Priority Life Care assumed management of 17 senior living communities earlier this month, and is rebranding them under the Celebration Villa banner.
All 17 properties formerly were operated by Eclipse Senior Living and are owned by Chicago-based real estate investment trust Ventas (NYSE: VTR).
Priority, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has largely focused on the affordable and middle-market private pay sectors. This move highlights a continued effort to grow in that market, CEO Severine Petras and COO Bobby Petras told Senior Housing News.
The addition includes 15 independent living and memory care communities in Pennsylvania and two assisted living and memory care communities in West Virginia. Previously, Priority operated 20 communities across 10 states and the District of Columbia.
These 17 properties are just some of the 90 buildings that needed to be transitioned as a result of Eclipse Senior Living ceasing operations, as previously reported by Senior Housing News.
This transition is among the larger moves necessitated by Eclipse shutting down. American House also took on 17 communities while only Discovery Senior Living (19) and Sinceri (21) assumed a larger portfolio from Eclipse, according to information Ventas released.
Originally, the transition was going to include 15 senior living communities in Pennsylvania, where Priority already had a presence, but the deal eventually included the two West Virginia communities, Bobby Petras told SHN .
The goal for Priority is to maximize performance — and the company’s leaders are optimistic about the potential.
“If you look prior to the pandemic, they performed very well,” Bobby told SHN.
A game-changer for Priority
This partnership is not the first between Priority and Ventas. The companies worked together on two South Carolina communities, according to Petras.
“This is a game-changer for us,” he said, of his reaction when Ventas approached Priority about the transition.
This represents the largest portfolio that Priority has transitioned all at once, and essentially doubles the portfolio size.
To improve the transition process, Priority made a number of decisions including a partnership with Bild & Co. as an extension of sales and marketing training.
The company also created a team for the express purpose of supporting these communities.
“So not only did we bring on the support team that was on-site,” Severine Petrastold SHN. “We also added additional team members to help with the oversight and lift.”
Priority credits Ventas and Eclipse for providing access to the communities during the transition so that leadership from Priority could meet with the employees.
“It was a scary change because it was so public and so large,” Severine said. “Everybody knew what was happening.”
Ultimately, despite the shared brand identity, Priority plans on treating each community as its own standalone property.
“We can’t expect to say that everything is going to work in every place,” Severine said. “You really have to be nimble. I think that’s one of the reasons Ventas tapped us on the shoulder, because we are nimble.”
Given the extreme workforce pressures across the senior living industry, labor will be an issue for Priority in the future. Priority, like many employers, offers sign-on bonuses and shift differential bonuses to entice prospective employees.
Employees also receive a rideshare credit to help with transportation to and from work, according to Bobby.
Being competitive in the labor market further stresses a bottom line already under distress from the Covid pandemic, but Severine is hopeful that relief may be on the horizon.
“I think 2022 is going to be a leveling-out between labor costs and rent costs,” she said.
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