published Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Developer switches $40 million senior complex to rental units

An Oklahoma developer of senior adult communities plans to build a $40 million complex of rental units in Chattanooga as the first of at least 10 planned WholeLife Traditions communities across the country.

Oklahoma City developer John Lowery, who bought 39 acres next to the Red Bank Elementary School site nearly a decade ago, said he changed his original plans from an adult community of homes sold to seniors to a new model of similar homes leased to seniors.

He is keeping his plans for upscale homes costing nearly $400,000 each to build along with a 10,000-square-foot community clubhouse and fitness center, a saltwater swimming pool and around-the-clock concierge medical services. But unlike his original Wellstone Retirement Community of owner-occupied homes, the new Wholesale Traditions will include only rental units.

“We have built this same type of development as a for-sale product, but this will be the first time we have developed such a project as a for-rent complex for the Baby Boomer,” he said Monday. “We’re really pivoting because we’re finding a significant share of Baby Boomers have or plan to sell their homes but are reticent about buying another house and would rather lease than buy.”

Monthly rental rates for each of the 104 planned units will be about $3,500, Lowery said, and will include access to A WholeLife Club of services.

Lowery will ask approval Wednesday of the Chattanooga Health, Educational and Housing Facilities Board to approve the project, which is being financed with portions of a $120 million tax-exempt issue approved last week by a Public Finance Authority in Madison, Wisc. The bond issue also is being used to fund a similar WholeLife community in San Antonio, Tex.

“We’re finding that Baby Boomers, 10,000 of whom retire every day, are approaching their senior years and retirement differently than their parents did,” said Bill Shapard, executive vice president of marketing for WholeLife Cos.

Rather than use their money to buy a new house and pay home owners association dues, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, tenants in WholeLife Communities will lease their homes on a yearly basis to gain more flexibility in where they live and how they use their money.

“Many would rather invest their money with a money manager than to put so much into buying another house,” Shapard said.

“WholeLife is about ‘attainable luxury living’ for the successful adult seeking a five-star lifestyle without the capital investment normally associated with a luxury home,” Lowery said. “Instead of settling for a third floor walk-up apartment like they had in college or early careers, WholeLife offers a high-design, luxury-inspired home within an upscale neighborhood — for rent.”

The developer said he hopes to resume the construction on the site within the next month. Lowery put in a road layout and utilities in 2007 prior to the collapse of his financing company, Cornerstone Investments in Atlanta. Cornerstone’s collapse, just a week after the failure of Bear Stearns Cos., forced Lowery to suspend work on 17 planned projects in 2008.

“We’ve been waiting for the market to correct and to look for the type of facilities that make sense to build,” Lowery said.

Besides Chattanooga, WholeLife, Inc. controls sites in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Lowery said he is actively seeking partners to bring the new WholeLife concept to all 50 states.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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