Tana Gall
Credit: Tori Sope
Tana Gall
Merrill Gardens President Tana Gall participates in a session about the middle market at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care 2021 Fall Conference. Credit: Tori Sope

Merrill Gardens’ middle-market brand, Truewood by Merrill, has expanded with six independent living communities formerly managed by Holiday Retirement and, more recently, by Atria Senior Living.

The communities, which range in size from 98 to 120 units, are part of a group of 17 former Holiday properties that changed hands after real estate investment trust National Health Investors, their owner, settled its lawsuit against their former owner, Welltower.

“We are excited to build a relationship with NHI and grow our Truewood by Merrill portfolio,” Tana Gall, the president of Merrill Gardens and a McKnight’s Women of Distinction 2021 Hall of Fame inductee, said in a statement. “These communities allow us to expand in markets where we already have strong roots.”

The new Truewood communities:

  • Truewood by Merrill, Fig Garden (Fresno, CA)
  • Truewood by Merrill, Modesto (Modesto, CA)
  • Truewood by Merrill, Pinole (Pinole, CA)
  • Truewood by Merrill, Roseville (Roseville, CA)
  • Truewood by Merrill, West Covina (West Covina, CA)
  • Truewood by Merrill, Vancouver (Vancouver, WA)

As with other senior living communities serving middle-income older adults, the Truewood by Merrill brand is designed especially to appeal to people whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to be able to afford the cost of many senior living communities.

“The goal is to really focus on a more moderately priced senior living product,” Gall told McKnight’s Senior Living in an April 2021 interview. “It’s a market that is underserved and one that we have been talking about for years. We want to offer a product that can serve a larger audience of seniors, something that offers flexibility and affordability without sacrificing quality care and service.”

Relationships with third parties, the use of universal workers, pared-down offerings and strict expense control — but not skimping on quality — are keys to a successful senior living model serving middle-income older adults, she and fellow McKnight’s Women of Distinction Hall of Honor inductee Pilar Carvajal, founder and CEO of Innovation Senior Living, told attendees of a session at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care 2021 Fall Conference.

Over time, Gall said then, Merrill expects that the Truewood brand will encompass additional communities. The brand now has 72 locations, according to its website.

In addition to the six communities now managed by Merrill Gardens through a joint venture with NHI — a new relationship between Merrill Gardens and the REIT — NHI also moved nine former Holiday independent living communities to a joint venture with Discovery Senior Living.

“We are excited to start a new relationship with Merrill Gardens and expand our relationship with Discovery through these new joint ventures,” NHI President and CEO Eric Mendelsohn said in an announcement earlier this month. “Our decision to pivot from the traditional triple-net lease model to an operating partnership is a milestone moment for the company and one we would only contemplate with trusted and experienced partners like Merrill Gardens and Discovery.”

NHI also moved a Holiday assisted living community in Florida to an existing master lease with Discovery and sold one Holiday property.

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