$80 million complex redefining ageing in place

New mixed use development redefining aged in place 

A community provider in South Australia is striving to completely revolutionise residential and home care through a new housing development due for completion in 2019.

Presenting at the AusHealthWeek aged care conference, Uniting Communities CEO Simon Schrapel unveiled “U City” – a mixed use building that will offer retirement living units, short term and overnight accommodation, youth services and rehabilitation, commercial and retail space.


The $80 million development which also features a 400-seat auditorium will be in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD, on the site of a former heritage listed church.

Mr Schrapel spoke candidly about the challenges Uniting Communities has faced so far, ranging from finding suitable building designs to securing finance on an unproven model, and lobbying for the removal of the heritage listing in order to clear the site.

Market acceptance of the new model will be tested over the coming months as promotional campaigns of the retirement living units within the property get underway.

“We are out on a limb on this project, breaking new ground not just for our organisation but from what I’ve seen, on a global scale. This has not been done before,” he said.

“Every industry needs innovation and Uniting Communities is about to become seen a leading provider in retirement living.”

“Existing retirement living options are not suitable for baby boomers. They want more and their needs are different to previous generations.”

“People are more likely to be divorced and re-partnered, they are more savvy and exposed to media, there is greater gender equality (though we still have a way to go) and they are more health savvy but also more likely to have significant health needs,” he said.

“Our research into the future housing requirements of baby boomers found that people expect greater choice, accommodation mobility, intra community value and extra dwelling spaces.

“There is an expectation of being well-being focused, being able to access responsive aged care services, having appropriate technology in place and use wearable devices,” he said.

“The old fashioned notion of ageing in place by co-locating retirement living units next to a residential care facility is not what people are going to want over the next five to 10 years.”

Over the next eight years retirement living use is expected to rise from about five to six per cent of the population to about 7.5 per cent.

In South Australia, the proportion of baby boomers is even higher, with 8.6 per cent of the population entering retirement years by 2025.

Mr Schrapel said the philosophy behind the 22-storey development is the power of community in enabling people to live well.

“U City is a community within a community. We want to move from dysfunctional segregation of people to functional integration, to provide maximum opportunities for people to mix with other generations and with people who are different to themselves.”

The complex will feature a 24/7 concierge and housekeeping support, with some segregation including exclusive lifts located in different areas of the building to ensure residents’ privacy and security.

In addition to the complexities of the new development, Uniting Communities has managed to retain its carbon neutral certification – which took five years to gain – through ensuring the building will be carbon neutral.

“I didn’t have grey hair a year ago,” Mr Schapel joked after running through the hurdles the organisation has overcome to get the project to development stage.

“A developer would not do this type of project. If Uniting Communities was here to make money we would not be doing this. But we have a strong social justice purpose. I do believe our hard work will pay off.”

Watch this video for more information about the project

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