Kevin Pidgeon, Nautical Lands Group
On ideal aging-in-place, building meaningful communities, and creating nimble spaces
In our Inspiring Leaders Series, we interview visionaries driven by a passion for excellence that’s manifest in Canada’s most innovative retirement communities.
Thought Leadership in action at Nautical Lands Group
We're always looking for ways in which to [improve aging-in-place]. When we're building our communities, we do them in stages. The reason for that is because we want to have that nimble nature… when you move out of your house that you've been in for 30 years, and you move to the next living chapter of your life, you really don't want to be doing it again in five years.
As chief operating officer (COO) of Nautical Lands Group (NLG), Kevin Pidgeon wants to create ideal aging-in-place settings at every Wellings locations across Canada. Below, he talks about what he’s learned in ten years with NLG and how that experience has led to the creation of lifestyle communities newly launching that anticipate and exceed people's highest expectations.
When you started out in this industry, what inspired you? 0:53
I recognized very, very early in the process that there was an incredible under servicing of the [55 plus] segment, and frankly, there wasn't a lot of innovation taking place in seniors housing [at the time]. Everybody knew what retirement homes were, what long term care homes were, and nursing homes were, but really, there had been very little innovation by the year 2010, 2011.
We identified that there was a communal requirement. Socialization was very attractive to this group, and [by this] I mean people 55 plus. So, we looked at it as an opportunity to build out—and this was where the meaningful part of this comes in—to build out a meaningful community for people 55 and older, to enjoy one another's company, enjoy the social aspect of communal living as well, to enjoy some activities, enjoy some fine dining. You know, just that whole togetherness and socialization.
We all know that the better social life somebody has, the longer they live. That's a fact of life. I mean, all we need to do is refer back to Maslow's hierarchy. We need that. We need human contact.
A Wellings community is always somewhere you want to go. So that's a very important distinction in our model and something that we really pride ourselves on defining and working with appropriate prospects to find the right community so that they are fulfilling all of their desires.
We've developed some common spaces that are everything but common. They are truly a pleasure to go and enjoy, [with] restaurants, pubs and activities. Our Calgary and Whitby buildings will be second to none, truly innovative.
What’s unique about Nautical Lands Group in this industry? [2:27]
The primary concept was, we were introducing the notion of communal living in an apartment environment at grade, because these are all townhome-like structures. Each of the eight pavilions contains three center [squared] apartments. So, what we were doing was we were trying to bring people together at what wasn't a cost prohibitive level.
So the rent on these units was very, very moderate and they were all brand new. And one of the greatest differentiating factors was full kitchens. Every one of them, based on the feedback that we received from seniors, has a full kitchen, stainless steel appliances, stove, dishwasher and fridge.
[3:17] And we've identified three key items that were holding us back. One, we re-established our focus group in the area to see how we could have missed the mark, only having 30 percent occupancy after two years.
And they told us one thing very clear. They said that it was a problem once they realized how much space 750 square feet was, for them to live in that space.
The second thing was that with [only] a bedroom and a living space, it didn't [lend] itself well to flexibility. So there was another complication there. And we realized quickly that what we needed was a unit that was a little bit bigger, 30, 40 percent bigger.
And the other thing that never occurred to us was: although [people] are married for a long time and you're living together for a long time, you can always go to the other room when you live in a house. Well, if the only other room is the bedroom, that's not always the most appealing thing. If your wife or husband's watching a specific thing on television, [and] you want to go and sit in another room and read, well, if the only room there's the bedroom, that's not ideal. So, by virtue of the need for a little bit more space, we also recognize the need for another room.
We immediately took four of the eight pavilions and retrofit them into two 1,000 foot units instead of three 750 square foot units. Within 12 months of doing so, so now we had a situation where we had listened to the community yet again, we had rejigged our offering and… now we had 12 one bedroom and … eight 2 bedroom [units]. So, we went from 24 to 20 units [and] we were 100% booked up. Full community.
[5:24] That being said, we were missing a couple of other things that we added along the way. We added a full-time service provider for people ... maintenance [to deal with] any kind of concerns they might have with the property management on site. That was a very important attribute… We call him the king of the county. He's the king of the community. And everybody looks to him for all of the solutions.
The other thing that was imperative, as an addition, was the clubhouse. That was the catalyst to creating such a demand, that we had to build Phase 2 which comprised an additional 50 units. So now that community is 70 units. And before we open Phase 2 with the clubhouse and the full-time staff on site (and by the way, 60 percent 2 bedroom offering), before it was opened, it was fully committed. And the units, as they were, achieved occupancy, were moved into. So, now there are 70 units fully occupied in that community. [It's a] very vibrant community.
How is your growing vision seen in Wellings of Whitby? [6:35]
Anybody who's in front of a computer needs to go to the Wellings of Waterford, and look at the video on that. There's actual drone footage of the community and there's lots of online video of the insides of the units. Then go and look at our Wellings of Whitby website. It's a 17 story, two tower offering, with over 350 units, beautifully finished, all marble countertop and stainless steel appliances. And they're all self-contained units with incredible vistas right down to Lake Ontario, from north of the 401 in Whitby. So, we're really thrilled about that.
When you look at those two properties, [let me] just paint a picture of the differentiation there. You've got something that is very appealing to the folks in Waterford who prefer the more rural walk-up nature of a town house offering, and the communal gathering in the independent community centre, versus people who are more used to [using an] elevator. They're used to going into a high rise. They're used to living on the 15th, 20th floor. They're used to the vistas. They're used to a different type of living, a more urban offering.
[8:10] We've tried to really enhance the experience by providing wonderful common areas and spaces, very usable, [with] a variety of restaurants. And the beauty of Whitby is … One of the criteria that we consider when building out a Wellings is with independent people living in these communities. There has to be an opportunity to have walkable services, meaning grocery stores and a variety of other things. You can walk across the parking lot, because in point of fact, the Wellings of Whitby is on Triovest Properties at Taunton Gardens, the Power Centre in Whitby, Ontario. So it's one of the first examples of dual-use residential and commercial space in seniors living. So, we are absolutely thrilled when you look back to our roots, a couple of hundred kilometres down the 401 and the 403 at Waterford, and then see this property in Whitby, there's a real divergence of concepts there.
We looked at [social living] as an opportunity to build out a meaningful community for people 55 and older, to enjoy one another's company, enjoy the social aspect of communal living as well, to enjoy some activities, enjoy some fine dining. We all know that the better social life somebody has, the longer they live. That's a fact of life. I mean, all we need to do is refer back to Maslow's hierarchy. We need that. We need human contact.
How is your vision manifest in your Calgary development? [9:25]
We're super excited with Trinity Hills because John [and] his team at Lansdowne Live has imagined one of the most engaging outdoor experiences for anybody that loves the outdoors. It is bordering on Canada Olympic Park [COP]. The ski hill is in your vista. You look out to the mountains. [There are] beautiful walking trails surrounding the entire development. Again, Save-on-Foods [is there]. We actually have a pedestrian bridge from our building right into Save-on-Foods. So, for people living in the Calgary area, that's a great gift because you don't have to go outdoors! Not every day is a Chinook. So, on those inclement winter days, you're walking through a passageway, a bridge into the Save-on-Foods complex. All of the parking is underground. There's other retail experiences between restaurants and various consumer products to be enjoyed. We're really excited about Calgary.
We will make arrangements with our residents to enjoy experiences at the various at the various facilities throughout the region. So, [similar to Wellings of] Stittsville, we've got arrangements with golf courses and tennis clubs. COP will be first on our list, to get our residents some experiences there, for those residents that want to get out, maybe ski a little bit, get a warm up in for Lake Louise.
What are some recent innovations you’re most excited about? [11:00]
From a structural perspective, I would tell you that based on incredible interaction with all of our residents and focus groups and a variety of other ways, we've developed some common spaces that are everything but common.
They are truly a pleasure to go and enjoy, be it... the offering of restaurants, pubs and activities [as] in our Calgary and Whitby buildings will be second to none, truly innovative. So, that's from a structural and engineering perspective. As well, the glass walls on these buildings provide vistas that are, you know, you … You really need to experience them to fully appreciate the incredible views that they provide. And you can imagine, I mentioned the view of Lake Ontario from some of the upper floors of Whitby? Well, you can only imagine the view of the Rockies and the mountains from the Wellings of Calgary. You can literally look across that at COP, but you can also look up into the foothills of the mountains, going up into Banff and Lake Louise areas.
[12:17] When people entered into the building, we handed them the iPad and told them that... the next Thursday morning, the iPad Club would meet in the atrium. They would be provided instruction, but they had to have their iPad with them all the time because that iPad was their keys to the kingdom. [This means] they could be sitting downstairs having a coffee with their friends in the library, games room, pub, [or] restaurant, and [if] the front door rings? It gets looped through to their iPad and they can let somebody in through to the main building.
The other thing is, in the last 18 months, we worked diligently with an app producer to develop an app that's specific to Wellings. So every iPad is preloaded with an app that gives them vision on everything from what the meal is today, what the meal is next week, to how they can get a car [or] limousine service, to a variety of other services that are available to them, right from the hairdresser to having their car brought up by the valet at the concierge, to everything they could ever desire in a first class hotel or high end condominium. They enjoy that at a Wellings Plus.
What’s next for your company in the next five to ten years? [13:40]
One of the things that we constantly preoccupy ourselves with is the ability, for, not only our company to be nimble, but our spaces to be nimble. Although people talk about aging-in-place, nobody is truly addressing an efficient and effective way for our constituents, for our residents in our communities to age in place and have the least disruption and discomfort in their environment possible.
So, we're always looking for ways in which to facilitate that transformation. We've got a couple of ideas. We got a couple of things up our sleeves. You'll notice one of the things that we do incredibly effectively is when we're building our communities, we do them in stages. The reason for that is because we want to have that nimble nature to our business, to meet the needs of our residents, both current and future, insomuch as … when you move out of your house that you've been in for 30 years, and you move to the next living chapter of your life, you really don't want to be doing it again in five years. So how can we make that experience pleasant today, but insightful for tomorrow?
More about Nautical Lands Group
Nautical Lands Group is the award-winning developer of Wellings communities across Canada. New developments in Calgary and Whitby set the bar ever higher in creating thrilling places for Canadians 55 plus to retire. Learn more about Nautical Lands Group.