From the start, 12 Oaks Senior Living Senior Vice President Bruce Bucher realized it was going to be different this time around. The Dallas-based company is an experienced senior housing management company that owns or manages 11 assisted living properties in Dallas and other Texas cities.

But entry into the El Paso market loomed as a challenge. For one thing, it was the first time 12 Oaks had contracted to manage an underperforming portfolio of four assisted living properties. An entity managed by Chicago-based Cambridge Realty Capital had just purchased the properties from one of the largest operators of assisted living and retirement communities in the country.

“12 Oaks Senior Living was brought in to help turn what had been a losing proposition into a lucrative operation,” Mr. Bucher said.

The first things the new owner did was change the name of the properties to SunRidge Senior Living and begin an extensive renovation program. All together, the owner invested about $1,000,000 for physical and cosmetic improvements and added a total of 57 new beds scattered among the four properties.

“An important decision converted one of the properties, SunRidge at Cielo Vista, into a 23-bed Memory Care Center. Dedicated space was also set aside for Memory Care residents at the other three properties in the portfolio,” recalls Mr. Bucher.

When the new owner purchased and renamed the four properties in 2012, SunRidge Senior Living was the largest senior housing provider in the El Paso market. But the combined occupancy for the properties was less than 80 percent and tanking.

Today the total number of beds at the four properties has subsequently grown to 444 and occupancy is at 90 percent.

Mr. Bucher makes the point that calculating occupancy at SunRidge was initially challenging due to having to view occupancy by beds occupied, versus rooms occupied, by residents at the property. Payments for almost 50 percent of SunRidge residents comes from third-party payer programs funded by Medicaid and Medicare, which is substantially higher than numbers observed elsewhere in the state. At the SunRidge properties, 61 percent of the residents live in semi-private rooms.

Mr. Bucher describes Cambridge as “hands-on” and believes this to be “a good thing.”

“Cambridge is one of the nation’s leading senior housing/healthcare lenders and is involved in the acquisition of senior care properties through its Cambridge Investment and Finance Company affiliate. The company recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and thoroughly understands the business, especially the financial side,” he noted.

“Some owners are happy with the occasional monthly or quarterly report. But this isn’t how it works for Cambridge. We talk on a weekly basis and meet two or three times a year at the property,” he said.

Mr. Bucher’s primary contacts at Cambridge are Senior Vice President for Operations and Asset Management Brent Holman-Gomez and Chairman Jeffrey Davis. “The properties weren’t doing well for the previous owners but the Cambridge management team recognized the potential and has worked closely with us to reach common goals. It’s been a productive working partnership,” Mr. Bucher said.

He points out that Cambridge has provided enthusiastic support for innovative projects that the management company has initiated at the property, including funding for an art therapy program for mid- to late-stage nonverbal dementia patients that has received some national attention.

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