Luxury retirement community opens in north central Phoenix

Posted By Mike Padgett

Oct. 3, 2008

The two executives are seated in what resembles a private restaurant in north central Phoenix. The design is several dollar signs above its true identity – the dining room of La Siena, a four-story luxury, lock-and-leave retirement community with 190 apartments.

The executives in plush chairs are Leisure Care Operations Director Cecil Rinker and La Siena General Manager Kelly East. I join them as Rinker works on a bowl of yogurt and fruit.

Light jazz playing in the background comes from the sound system, not any musical spirits lingering from Bud Brown’s Barn, a popular western entertainment venue that opened on the property in the late 1940s. But after its run of about 60 years, Bud Brown’s Barn was closed and sold in early 2006 to make room for La Siena.

The upscale retirement community sits on a 6.2 acres at 909 E. Northern Ave. It is the work of Opus West Corp. and RED Group LLC in partnership with Leisure Care LLC in Seattle.

Rinker and East say that since La Siena’s opening in June, 25 of the new development’s 190 apartments have been rented. La Siena offers one- and two-bedroom apartments. Three floor plans are within each category.

The apartments range from 769 to 1,251 square feet. Rent is from $2,950 to $5,000 a month. Tenants pay a monthly fee and receive a credit card to use in the dining room and the lounge. La Siena also imposes a one-time, nonrefundable residency fee of $2,500.

Many of the new residents are local, either from within a few miles or from the Sun Cities and Mesa. A few are from out of state.

“They’re all looking for luxury living, convenience and they want to be pampered and they want to shed all the responsibilities of homeownership,” East says.

La Siena’s location, just south of Northern Avenue and a few blocks east of Seventh Avenue, places it close to shopping centers, business centers, freeways, several hospitals, sports facilities and many other attractions in central and downtown Phoenix.

Another reason for choosing the site is its proximity to North Central Avenue, which “has a lot of old money,” East says.

Rinker and East lead me through the luxurious community. We leave the dining room next to the lobby and immediately enter the Bistro Café, which offers wireless Internet access as well as complimentary coffee and pastries to residents.

Rinker says Leisure Care has been in Arizona since 1984. The company plans to add more retirement developments to respond to the growing number of retirees, especially the baby boomers, or those born between 1946-64.

“The focus is really on providing services that nowadays are geared toward the upcoming baby boomer population, which is about to sweep over us,” Rinker says. “Some people say it’s 78 million. I usually round it up to 80 million. I figure there’s going to be a lot of them, the ‘silver tsunami.’

“This (baby boomer) generation has really affected change,” Rinker continues. “I think we will continue to see this age group make more changes.”

Analysts for years have been predicting major changes in the economy, as the growing numbers of boomers retire. Their collective buying and spending habits will trigger changes in retail, travel, restaurants, retirement living, fitness and health care, Rinker says.

Over the next hour, East and Rinker guide me through La Siena’s many amenities, including the Essentials Salon and Spa; the Brain Fitness Center, where residents can use computer programs to exercise their brains; the PrimeFit gym program directed by a certified trainer; the chapel; the dance and yoga room with a mirror-covered wall and a balance bar; and a theater with movie seats and a retro popcorn machine on wheels.

Other features include a concierge and complimentary shuttles to shopping nearby as well as private transportation for longer trips.

La Siena’s lounge offers a large flat-screen television monitor on one wall and a bar topped with white-and-tan onyx. Not granite or marble, but onyx. And the translucent stone is lighted from underneath. Very cool.

Being a baby boomer myself, I’m imagining shrimp and lobster on the barby, wine in the cooler, and the Eagles and Eric Clapton on the sound system. Very cool. This is not your father’s idea of a retirement community.

“This was built more like a hotel than an apartment complex in that the amenities that we offer are all-encompassing,” East says. “People need not leave if they don’t want to.”

When La Siena’s residents travel, they can lock and leave their apartments with no worries about lawn or pool maintenance.

“This (La Siena) provides all of that pampering and all of that trouble-free atmosphere,” East says. “I have residents who travel half of the month, every month. They’re going on cruises or trips and this is where they call home now.”

Rinker says Leisure Care began in 1976. With La Siena, the company has four retirement communities in Arizona, with a fifth opening in Tucson Nov. 1. In the past six months, Leisure Care has opened other new facilities in Toronto, Seattle and Colorado, East says.

La Siena’s contractor was Opus West Construction Corp., and the architect was Rich Barber of ORB Architecture LLC.


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Oct 3rd, 2008

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