Keeping Pace

In the next couple of years, Colson doesn't want to let building get out of hand either. Being fully integrated means that the company can only build as fast as the slowest department can go. In 2001, it found out exactly how fast this was when 27 new properties opened. "We opened a new building every 13 or 14 days," Colson says. "That's hard for the management company. It's hard to hire new people and fire up a new building that often."

At the time, Colson and his management team didn't want to push the company to that sort of growth and slowed down afterward. But as he thinks about it and looks at the baby boomers entering the senior market, he admits a faster pace may be something to consider. "By 2010, we may ratchet it up again," he says. "We may just have to kick the management company in the pants and do 30 to 40 new buildings per year."

Of course, Colson also says he may phase his own role out within five years. He jokes that he's been phasing himself out for the past 40 years, giving way to a strong team of managers that runs the day-to-day part of each section of the business. "If I die tomorrow, no cares," he says. "My son and the others would take over." His son Barton already runs Holiday.

Despite these claims, it's hard to see him leaving the business he started just as a new group of middle-class seniors will need places to live. In five years, Colson most likely will still be in the office.

Construction Time Line

Most properties that Colson & Colson builds take about nine months to complete. They usually have two residential wings and a center area with dining rooms, activity rooms, and kitchens.

Month 1: The site work is completed, and footings are being poured on the first wing. The site utilities are ongoing.

Month 2: The slab is poured on the first wing, and the framing goes up. The foundations are proceeding on the center of the building and the second wing.

Month 3: The slab is poured in the core area and framing is in progress. The rough mechanical and electrical trades are working on the first wing.

Month 4: Framing is complete in the center of the building. The slab is complete on the second wing and framing is in progress. The rough trades have completed their work in the first wing, and drywall is being hung there. The rough mechanical and electrical trades are working in the center of the building. The exterior siding is being hung.

Month 5: The framing is complete on the project. The finish trades are moving through the first wing, while the center area is being drywalled. The rough trades are moving through the second wing, and siding is still being hung.

Month 6: The finish trades have completed the first wing, and carpet is being put in. The drywall is completed in the center area, and finish trades are moving through. The second wing is being drywalled. Exterior siding continues to be hung, and the exterior site grading has started.

Month 7: The first wing is complete except for cleaning and punch list. The center area units are being carpeted. The drywall is complete in the second wing, and the finish trades are working there. Exterior site paving is in progress.

Month 8: The center area is almost complete, with the common areas being carpeted. The second wing is being carpeted and cleaned.

Month 9: Landscaping is progressing, and furniture, fixtures, and fittings are being installed. The building is substantially complete and ready to be occupied.

Colson & Colson at a Glance
  • Year Founded: 1963
  • Location: Salem, Ore.
  • 2003 Revenue: $857 million
  • Number of Units Built in 2003: 2,872
  • Number of Units in the Pipeline: 1,480
  • Expected Growth in Units Within Five Years: Approximately 7,400
  • Geographic Coverage: North America and Europe
  • Revenue Streams: Developer, manager, and owner of independent and assisted-living senior housing.
  • Number of Employees: 4,395