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Building Enriched Living Experiences

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In a 2023 roundup of the best places to retire in the U.S, Lancaster, PA was named number one, knocking the Sunshine State of Florida off its long-standing top spot. To the people of Lancaster who are involved in the development of senior living communities, this came as no surprise, as there are 18 life plan communities (formerly known as CCRC’s) in Lancaster County alone. In recent years, Lancaster County has upped its game significantly in the senior living space, providing residents with facilities that serve not only as homes, but as self-contained communities that offer an enriched living experience. This has created a time of abundance for companies that were already tapped into the senior living space.

One such company is CCS Building Group, a leading commercial design-build firm based in Willow Street, Pennsylvania, and one whose roots began in the senior living space. As Director of Development Ted Gallagher describes it, “CCS Building Group is committed to quality, excellence and creating buildings and spaces where communities thrive and prosper. We deliver creative and sustainable solutions to clients across various markets, such as senior living, retail, hospitality, multi-family and industrial. We change skylines and enhance communities with a proven track record of successful projects, consistently setting new benchmarks in our industry.”

But like all construction companies, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Ted reflects on the past few years which have been particularly turbulent for the construction industry. “The past few years have been unlike any since the inception of our firm. We dealt with shutdowns during the covid pandemic, material shortages, extreme cost increases on labor and materials, and found that this new age has brought with it a shortage of skilled labor. Because we are resilient, we have adapted and overcame these obstacles that otherwise would have stunted our growth. We continue to contract and partner with new clients while maintaining relationships with our existing client base.”

When it comes to navigating the industry during such times of turbulence, it helps to be able to deliver projects using the Design-Build approach. “We specialize in being a true design-build contractor,” says Ted, “where we contract with the architects and even the structural and civil engineers. This means the client only has one point of contact, which is our team, and they’re given a dedicated pre-construction manager to manage the entire pre-construction process. This initial phase of a project is usually the hardest part for the owner – when they’re trying to get a project off the ground. Once a client experiences our true design-build contract, they quickly appreciate how it provides them with more time in their day to focus on their own operations.”

“We specialize in being a true design-build contractor.”

Of the senior living market in Pennsylvania, Ted says that “it’s great for our industry, because there is such a draw for potential residents and there are many options with the number of unique senior living communities in Lancaster County and surround areas.” He talks about Willow Valley Communities and their award-winning buildings which are designed with the resident in mind. These buildings truly cater to the residents with top-of-the-line amenity spaces carefully constructed by CCS Building Group. The Manor Core project, for example, required reimagining an existing building as a dynamic and multifaceted space, in which enjoyment is safe, accessible, and shared by all. “This particular client constantly evaluates their buildings and renovates often to remain an industry leader”, Ted says. “They really maintain a fresh and modern look. But with this project, The Manor Core, they wanted to take it to a whole other level. We created a town center atmosphere, where the residents have multiple dining options and even have several bars they can visit to have a drink with a friend. There is a bakery, sandwich shop and other amenities such as gym and library. We created this core space so that residents can gather and entertain their friends and families in a warm and inviting space.”

Cohesion of social space and a celebration of community is what championed the Manor Core project, and this is reflected in the finished product. The renovation saw the building’s transition in a clever expansion that opened new opportunities without taking away from the reimaged outdoor courtyard space. What we see today at the Manor Core is a diverse offering of dining and leisure facilities that cater to a wide range of preferences. Take the aptly named ‘Perk & Pint’ which serves as a coffee hub by day and a lively bar by night, which exemplifies that clever and flexible use of space to align with the lifestyle needs of the residents. “The project involved a lot of structural steel work,” Ted says. “The entire core of the building was gutted from the slab to the roof. It was an existing three-story with multiple levels. All that was demolished and then put back with a changed roof line, everything’s fresh and new, from plumbing to HVAC.” The before and after pictures of the Manor Core project are impressive, and a tangible reflection of CCS Building Group’s work come to life.

The senior living market constitutes a significant portion of CCS Building Group’s portfolio and will remain a focal point given the strong demand for such developments in Pennsylvania. However, CCS is also witnessing growth in the retail, hospitality, and multifamily sectors. Ted explains, “Since our establishment in 2006, we’ve been recognized for our expertise in constructing and renovating senior living communities. Nevertheless, we’ve broadened our scope to include retail, hospitality, and restaurant ventures, with ongoing expansion in these areas. Additionally, we’ve entered into the multifamily sector, with several potential projects in our pipeline. This sector is thriving, particularly in Central Pennsylvania, where housing shortages are prevalent. Many developers are capitalizing on this demand, resulting in a surge of construction activity.”

CCS project interior of Willow Valley Manor

This clever pivot, along with its continued involvement in senior living, is CCS Building Group’s recipe for success and longevity in the Pennsylvanian construction industry. “CCS has a strategic vision for sustained yet managed expansion,” Ted tells me. “We recognize the necessity of prudence in our growth given the scarcity of skilled construction professionals that are available.”

“In light of the volatile economy, rising interest rates, and increased material costs, we’re fortunate to maintain a robust backlog. This stability not only ensures our long-term presence for clients but also fosters confidence in our ability to weather market fluctuations. As we venture further into the multifamily and hospitality sectors, we’re dedicated to strengthening our relationships with existing clients while seeking new partnerships with Developers and other partners in the Mid-Atlantic region,” Ted said.

CCS’s meticulous attention to detail, utilization of the design-build process, and dedication to sustainable practices seems to set them apart in such a competitive market. “Our unwavering commitment remains steadfast- to provide our clients with an unmatched experience, cultivating loyalty that goes beyond individual projects,” Ted said.

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