Aegis Living’s 110-unit retirement community in Newcastle will be the company’s second to cater to Chinese seniors, the design to adhere to the principles of feng shui and its location of historical significance to the Asians who first settled here.
CEO Dwayne Clark says Chinese families living in America are experiencing a cultural shift, many breaking away from a traditional imperative that the children grow up to eventually take care of their parents under their own roof. That shift has been paying off for Aegis Living’s first Chinese-focused retirement community in Fremont, Calif. over the past 14 years, he said. With 92,000 Chinese within a 25-mile radius of its Aegis Gardens site in Newcastle, Clark said he expects that success to continue.
Clark reported to a large gathering for its July 30 groundbreaking that Aegis reached its investment goal for the project within 72 hours, and the community is already 10-percent deposited, despite a 22-month construction timeline. Those putting down a deposit now will receive a “golden ticket” with a number on it that indicates their place in line for the retirement community. Clark said the company held a launch party for Aegis Gardens several years ago and opened for deposits then, but had to return those when the permitting took longer than expected.
King County Executive Dow Constantine came out for the groundbreaking, telling the crowd he thought Clark’s proposal was “incredibly audacious” when he first heard about the $50 million project, but now thinks it’s exactly what is needed in a county with more than a quarter million seniors of Asian descent over 65 — about 50,000 of those over 75 years old.
Part of the challenge is the culture, and convincing Chinese-American seniors they can have a high quality of life in a retirement community that fits their needs, as well as assuring their children that placing them there doesn’t make them bad people, said Mahlon Meyer, Aegis Living community consultant and a former professor of Chinese history at the University of Washington.
With sensitivity to keeping the community feng shui, architects put in a Chinese temple, but then realized a fountain would be necessary to ensure good luck, Meyer said. Since the Chinese word for the number 4 can be confused for a word for death, Meyer said there will be no fourth floor at the retirement community.
“We’re going one, two, three, penthouse,” he said.
Joining in the groundbreaking was former Washington governor and former U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, who is also in talks with Aegis to use his influence to bring cultural presenters to the retirement community.
“I think this is a really exciting project. There’s an explosion in the number of Asian elderly in the Puget Sound region,” Locke said. “A lot of the elderly don’t want to live with the kids or the kids live in another city and don’t want to leave.”
On top of its Chinese design, the 7.7-acre retirement community will also be enhance through the restoration of the nearby China Creek, named in honor of the Chinese immigrants who first arrived in the area by the railroad and later to work the coal mines. Clark said Aegis is still working on the permitting process to construct a monument to that history at Aegis Gardens. Clark said it’s fitting for Chinese-Americans to soon be able to retire to the area in style and luxury.
“That’s the irony of all ironies: this was a labor camp,” he said, surveying the grounds on July 30.