The Source Saturday
11 Jun 2022
Redefining the ageing journey
In 2016, Mark and Evette Moran’s Vaucluse project set the benchmark for integrated retirement living and aged care developments in Australia – today, the couple is continuing to innovate and adapt their products to meet their philosophy of ‘Live Younger Longer’ – while achieving record prices.
BY LAUREN BROOMHAM
With a full waiting list and million-dollar resale prices, Mark Moran Vaucluse has proven the power of the co-location model – and the benefits for both residents and staff – says the husband-and-wife team who pioneered its development. Mark and Evette Moran co-founded the Mark Moran Group following 20 years with the Moran Health Care Group founded by Mark’s parents Doug and Greta Moran AO.
The couple are known for their innovative model of integrated care, as well as their focus on community engagement and workplace culture. “We’re not lawyers nor accountants, we probably see things a little bit differently,” they tell SATURDAY.
“We were the first to recognise and promote that ageing should be celebrated.”
In 2010, the couple purchased an existing aged care facility from St. Luke’s and transformed it into the award-winning Mark Moran at Little Bay.
An “opportunistic” acquisition
Their next project was Vaucluse – a 12,000sqm site at the old Vaucluse High School that was an “opportunistic” acquisition from retirement village operator Aveo.
“We took the Aveo model of retirement and added integrated retirement with aged care services, behavioural and community. We pioneered a new financial model, then shared it with the Aveo team who we then took through the construction site and a few months later, ‘The Aveo Way’ was announced.”
“Basically, we’re free thinkers, some would say disruptors but we also share innovation as we believe in supporting better outcomes.”
“In the aftermath of the GFC, Aveo were rationalising assets and their balance sheet and we said ‘gee, it’s an iconic site, if we’re going to do this let’s create something truly remarkable.’ That moment really was the birth of the Mark Moran Group,” said the couple.
Penthouse sold for $10 million in 2016
The project – billed as Australia’s most expensive retirement village – opened in 2016 after 85 weeks under construction to complete the three buildings designed by Marchese Partners.
Featuring 91 aged care suites (including 28 behavioural) and 91 apartments, plus a 1,500sqm rooftop garden, indoor cinema, luxury spa, gym, bar and restaurant, 60% of the apartments were already sold on opening day, with prices ranging from $850,000 up to $4 million.
The development went on to win a number of major Australian awards including the Best Seniors Living Development in Australia at the UDIA Awards for Excellence, Best Aged Care and Retirement in Australia at the Urban Taskforce Development Excellence Awards and the Aged Care & Seniors Living Development of the Year at The Urban Developer Awards, as well as best in class in Asia and the world.
Six years on, the site is still achieving record prices – with a lengthy waiting list for the apartments.
“Vaucluse has always smashed industry records from the penthouse in 2016 selling for $10 million and a housing market that has only gone one way since then,” said the couple.
“It is useful too having our son Max Moran the third generation heading up village sales and business development – people experience first-hand 66 years of a family business upfront.”
Pivot after rehabilitation service blocked by Government
Design-wise, the pair have also taken many lessons from the development.
“The ability to remain self-critical is key,” they say.
“We thought we knew a lot after 60 years of combined experience but we were so wrong. We initially set out for example to incorporate high-end rehabilitation but the Government blocked it.”
“We’re not developers, we’re not lobbyists, we’re operators, so we now play to our strengths. We converted the rehabilitation wing to additional apartments and given our waiting list, that’s not a bad thing.”
The decision to co-locate retirement living and aged care on the same site has worked well however, with few residents needing to make the move from their apartments to the residential care facility as they grow older.
“The transition both in and out of aged care is seamless, allowing residents to age within their apartments while maintaining greater levels of access to care. It’s an entirely different model when you have actual care on site 24/7.”
Community focus pays dividends for residents and staff
Vaucluse has a unique sense of community, says the couple – with the retirement village residents happy to mix with the aged care residents and the wider community which has access to the bar and restaurant.
“It’s surprising perhaps how little stigma there was with residential, retirement and the broader community mixing together,” they said.
“The residents love seeing the young fashionistas dining at the restaurant, completely at ease in the middle of a co-located retirement village. The Botanica Vaucluse’s current chef was the personal chef to the king and queen of Qatar, we’ve had the most amazing chefs. We’re better known because of our restaurant!”
The group has also seen benefits for its staff who work at their sites.
“Happy staff is one of our cornerstones,” said Evette and Mark.
“Our staff are everything to us. We pay well too, they deserve it. Our facilities are generally recognised as good places to work, which has helped with the former Government’s negative take on residential care, negative media and the pandemic.”
“We are also well above the staffing hours in all areas recommended by the Royal Commission, so there is a lot of support for our staff in situ.”
Loss-making operators need to turn operations around or exit
Despite the model’s success, the couple say they are not wedded to any one model.
Last month, the group opened its stand-alone 104-bed Warrawee residential aged care home on Sydney’s North Shore, which features interiors by Evette, gardens designed by Evette and landscaper Charlie Albone and its suite of ageing programs and initiatives.
But the pair warn that in the future, all aged care and retirement living providers will need to look at the design of their developments – and whether they can remain viable.
“As an industry we will get a much needed and deserved reprieve from the newly elected Labor Government, but if you’re running at loss, currently 60% plus of aged care operators, we would be cautious and respectfully say either turn around the operations immediately or get out,” they stated.
“Losses incurred aren’t ever recovered, one of the many lessons that makes us who we are today. Then, with a strong foundation start delivering the possible, not the historical.”