Talk about your golden years. As more and more developers of multifamily senior housing opt for market-rate—even luxury—design and amenity packages, Merrill Gardens at Kirkland in Spokane, Wash., takes aging-in-place to another level with a billiards room, library, fitness center, movie theater, salon, lounge, and café. Throw in waterfront views from nearly every unit, and it’s pretty clear this isn’t the assisted and independent living facility of the past—not even the past couple of years.


Location: Spokane, Wash.
Builder: Dee McGonigle
Merrill Gardens at Kirkland
Runberg Architecture Group
Opened: December 2008
No. of Units: 115
Unit Mix: Studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments
Prices: $1,995 to $4,995 per month

“The old senior living model associated with institutional nursing facilities no longer applies for this generation,” attests Brian Runberg, principal of Runberg Architecture Group and a lead designer and architect for Merrill Gardens. “The new paradigm is more akin to a cross between residential housing and a resort hotel. This shift is proving that keeping seniors feeling young, active, and engaged promotes not only high-quality but longer life.”

A long-established relationship between Runberg Architecture and the Merrill Gardens development group continues to redefine urban infill opportunities for the market-rate and senior housing market, and the Kirkland site was no exception. Just a block from the Spokane waterfront, unit orientation was tailored to maximize waterfront views and solar orientation. Although considerable slope existed on the site, the development team was able to segregate buildable areas not exposed to natural daylight and use that real estate for common areas and amenity spaces.

A socially-activated, amenity-laden, waterfront alternative to traditional seniors housing. —Michael Hickok, principal, Hickok Cole Architects

The urban infill location also provides in-community amenities for active seniors eager to socially interact. “There is a goal to design these facilities to support independence and individuality yet provide all the enriching supportive community amenities necessary 24 hours a day,” Runberg says. “One of Merrill’s fundamental tenets of design is for the residents to have access to as much active lifestyle opportunities as possible, as this leads to better health for all. When you live a block from the waterfront, how can you resist going out and enjoying that location and getting on the bike paths, visiting the cafés, or simply putting your feet in the water at the end of the pier?”