Credit: Bob Narod

Not every successful home­owner age 55-plus dreams of downsizing to a smaller house or condo. Many like the idea of trading ownership for a more care-free existence that eliminates maintenance worries. Atlanta-based Wood Partners banked on this change of heart when it constructed its latest apartment building, Alta at Regency Crest in Ellicott City, Md., an unincorporated community in Howard County 13 miles from Baltimore. When a 6-acre site with a farmhouse became available, Wood’s owners decided to partner with the seller, developer Century Holdings, to build a $30 million, 150-unit, four-story building at 3305 Oak West Dr. “The location was perfect,” says Scott M. Zimmerly, a director at Wood’s Vienna, Va., office. “We knew there was pent-up demand due to an absence of construction, an area planning report’s forecast for the need, and retirees who might want to keep some presence near family.”

Adds colleague Leonard Wood Jr., director of the Mid-­Atlantic region for the firm: “There are very few options here for seniors who choose to sell their homes and transition to a luxury apartment lifestyle. Ellicott City has a small-town feel with big-city amenities close by.”

To appeal to a wide cross section of renters, the units were designed with attention to variety. The one- to three-bedroom units range from 703 to 1,414 square feet and $1,525 to $2,450 per month. The developers’ hunches about what would work proved correct, with more than 200 prospects expressing interest before the late-March opening. “We’ve been rewarded with a steady lease-up,” Wood says.

By mid-August, 49 units had been leased, equating to an average of about 10 per month, which pleases Zimmerly. “We are extremely happy with that pace; market-rate senior deals usually aim to lease four to six leases a month, at best,” he says.

The developers also anticipated their audience’s desire for convenience, designing a large clubhouse with an indoor saltwater pool, fitness center, theater, demo kitchen, business center, and salon. Landscape architect Peter L. Rinek of BC Consultants in Fairfax, Va., also built outdoor “rooms” to help create an oasis feeling.

Based on prior projects, the developers knew that older tenants like to remain active with various choices of organized activities. At Alta, there’s aerobics, yoga, Wii bowling, and more. In addition, the developers included service-oriented amenities, such as daily “valet” trash pickup at tenants’ doors and storage lockers.

“All this sets this building apart from its competitors,”­ ­Zimmerly says.