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An original history of the first 30 years of one Pennsylvania-based provider’s journey proved prophetic as expansion plans circle back to the founder’s original vision of a community without walls.

Landis Communities is looking forward to celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2024, but President and CEO Larry Zook took a look back at its history Monday during a LeadingAge policy update call.

In 1994, Landis Homes Retirement Community’s first resident board member, Grace Wenger, wrote a history of the organization’s first 30 years. In highlighting the then-recent opening of the community’s adult day program for the greater community, the book pondered what the campus and the community would provide in 2024. 

Wenger, Zook said, planted the seeds 30 years ago for the organization’s transition into providing affordable housing and options for middle-income older adults. In 2008 and 2009, the board launched a strategic planning process, asking 150 stakeholders for feedback on what it was doing well, how it could improve and what services were needed.

The feedback fell under three key themes: keep Landis Homes strong and vital, provide more services to age in place, and offer more affordable options for middle-income and lower-income community members.

That feedback led to the creation of Landis Communities in 2011, an umbrella organization for Landis Homes, a not-for-profit continuing care retirement / life plan community on a 114-acre campus; Landis HCBS, which provides home- and community-based services; and Landis Quality Living, a nonprofit leading the expansion of the organization’s affordable and middle-market housing offerings. 

“In 2024, as we’re about to celebrate 60 years, Grace Wenger’s vision from 30 years ago is coming true,” Zook said. 

Ten years ago, the organization opened Steeple View Lofts, which features 30 middle-income apartments on three floors of a former tobacco warehouse in Lancaster, PA. That action led to the opening of Landis Place on King in May, a mixed-income community in Lancaster that includes 10 affordably priced units among its 79 apartments.

Landis Communities also is partnering with a local affordable housing developer to add more low-income housing tax credit units in surrounding counties. Zook said the effort is part of the organization’s journey to continue to provide middle-income and mixed-income options.

He added that the move has helped the organization increase its diversity among its team members, going from 2.5% of its staff being persons of color or of minority ethnic backgrounds in 2005 to one-third of its team members being from diverse backgrounds now. 

Landis Communities also is working with the City of Lancaster and Lancaster Downtowners, a not-for-profit entity providing access to community services, to secure age-friendly city status from the World Health Organization.