Marlin Spring dipped its toe into the retirement housing pool by purchasing a 68-suite residence in Burlington in late 2019 and a 50-unit building in nearby Waterdown early last year from two individual operators.
Spring Living’s new acquisitions are in Richmond Hill, Oshawa, Mississauga, Kitchener and Ottawa. They have more than 580 suites combined.
“We now have a platform to really leverage accelerated growth,” Marlin Spring president Ashi Mathur told RENX in an interview which included Spring Living chief executive officer, partner and board member Lois Cormack.
Marlin Spring purchased Park Avenue Manor Retirement Community and Village Manor Retirement Community before the pandemic started impacting the seniors housing sector in a major way. Mathur said no residents have contracted the coronavirus and what his company has learned about the industry and its operations during this time reinforced its commitment to becoming a bigger player.
Lois Cormack heads up Spring Living
Cormack was president and CEO of Sienna Senior Living before resigning for personal reasons last June. She led the acquisition, financing and integration of more than 30 retirement residences while with Sienna.
Cormack said leaving Sienna was simplified because the firm’s CFO had been “mentored” to eventually move into the role of CEO to succeed her.
Mathur and Cormack have known each other for years and he asked her if she’d be interested in becoming an important part of Marlin Spring’s new venture. After taking some time for herself, Cormack decided she was.
Cormack liked Marlin Spring’s plan to acquire older retirement residences with approximately 100 suites and add value through ensuring operational excellence and upgrading the properties, “which is very different from the strategy that all of the other providers are chasing, which is higher-end products in primary markets, new product that’s less than 10 years old and with over 130 suites.
“That’s where the market’s been going for the last several years. So this product hasn’t been as popular, but I’ve always liked it and liked the strategy because I think there’s a very large and growing demographic of seniors that need an affordable option and don’t need long-term care and don’t particularly want long-term care.
“Now, after having the COVID experience and the tragedy that’s unfolded in long-term care, there are even more seniors and their families that will want an affordable private-pay option.
“This is right in that niche kind of market where we’ve got an increasing demand, a growing population and more and more seniors who need some services.”
Cormack said Revera was looking to sell the properties because it’s become more focused on acquiring newer buildings and developing properties.
Both Marlin Spring and Revera are privately owned companies and have a confidentiality agreement, so Mathur wouldn’t disclose the purchase price of the eight properties.
“I’d say it’s a win-win for both groups,” he said.
Spring Living’s plans
Most suites in Spring Living’s portfolio are 350 square feet or smaller and, along with the properties themselves, are well-suited to assisted living. A number of the properties have just one level, which appeals to many seniors who don’t want to use elevators.
“Marlin Spring does an outstanding job with capital improvements because of their experience in multifamily and condos,” said Cormack. “This is kind of unique because most operators are operators. They’re not great at cap ex.
“Marlin Spring does a fantastic job of building upgrades and improvements and planning cap ex. Once we get out of COVID, hopefully by the end of this year, we’ll be able to make those improvements to amenity spaces, the buildings and suites that we want to make to make it a more pleasant setting for the residents.”
Mathur sees a chance to consolidate ownership of retirement residences fitting Spring Living’s mandate — and that will remain its focus, as opposed to development.
“The sector that we’re looking at seems to be fairly fragmented. There are opportunities that we’re looking at. As people come to know Marlin Spring and Spring Living and that we’ve established this platform and we’re well-capitalized and have a desire to move quickly, we expect the pipeline to grow.”
Marlin Spring has acquired more than 30 projects since 2013, consisting of 9,000 residential units in various stages of development, construction, repositioning and completion across Canada and the United States. Its residential portfolio is more than eight million square feet and has an estimated completion value of more than $4.3 billion.
“I’ve got deep relationships across the country with operators, brokers and everyone in the business,” said Cormack.
Spring Living will retain all of the staff and management currently in place at its new properties and Cormack has hired an executive leadership team with experience in seniors living to assist her in putting the proper infrastructure in place to scale up the portfolio.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was updated with information clarifying Cormack’s departure from Sienna, just prior to her joining Marlin Spring / Spring Living.