In the senior housing/healthcare business, it’s never a good idea to rest on one’s laurels.

When he was recruited by Dallas-based 12 Oaks Senior Living management company last fall to be Vice President of Operations for four assisted living /memory care properties owned by Cambridge Realty Capital Companies in El Paso, Tex., Ray Cook knew he was ready for a new challenge.

As he puts it, “Retirement wasn’t the answer.  When the opportunity presented itself I was ready to turn the next page.”

In El Paso, 12 Oaks Senior Living is managing the four Cambridge-owned properties under the SunRidge Senior Living banner.  The management company owns and manages properties in other Texas cities but had no presence in El Paso.

The portfolio includes SunRidge at Palisades, SunRidge at Cambria, SunRidge at Cielo Vista, and SunRidge at Desert Springs.  Combined, the properties total 355 units, making SunRidge the largest senior hosing provider in the El Paso market.

SunRidge at Desert Springs is a solely licensed memory care property, but all of the properties are Alzheimer’s-certified by the state of Texas, he noted.

Mr. Cook has more than 32 years experience in the senior care business, mostly with larger companies.  He points out that Cambridge is one of the nation’s leading senior housing/healthcare lenders, but the company also specializes in purchasing and nursing distressed senior care properties back to health in partnership with strong regional management companies like 12 Oaks Senior Living.

When Cambridge purchased the portfolio from a large national company five years ago, combined occupancy was about 70 percent.  From the former owner’s point of view, the properties were not an especially good fit.

“The population of El Paso is about 650,000 people but the city has a small town feel.  Cambridge understood this and worked with 12 Oaks Senior Living to develop programs keyed to the needs of residents and their families,” Mr. Cook said.

A number of improvements were made and the number of units at three of the properties was expanded either through conversions or better use of available space.  At SunRidge at Palisades, the number of units rose from 130 to 140 units.  At SunRidge at Cielo Vista, the total rose from 105 to 114 units.  SunRidge at Cambria’s total was up from 96 to 101 units.

“As the changes were made occupancy rose steadily to about 90 percent, where it remains today,” he noted.

Mr. Cook believes it helps when ownership and management are reading from the same playbook.  An important reason why the SunRidge group has been as successful as it has is the commitment by Cambridge and its 12 Oaks Senior Living partners to a strong, on-the-ground management presence in El Paso.

“Cambridge is very knowledgeable and open to ideas, and the company chooses to be more involved in day-to-day decisions.  Regular meetings are scheduled and communications channels remain open at all times.  Teamwork is an important idea,” he said.

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