The owners of the former Imperial Plaza in Northside are a year into renovating the longtime senior housing complex as a so-called “active adult” community, though one of the biggest planned updates is yet to come.
Rebranded as Legacy at Imperial Village, the 26-acre, multi-building complex at 1717 Bellevue Ave. has undergone a multimillion-dollar refreshening of its interiors and grounds since it was purchased last year by Brentwood Investment Group and Bluestone Group.
Common areas and hallways have been modernized with new lighting, paint and design features, and new amenities including pickleball and bocce courts have been added to the grounds. A redesigned salon opened earlier this year, and the community’s restaurant and other food and shopping options have been revamped.
Renovations to the apartments remain underway, with 150 of the planned 830 units completed with new stainless-steel appliances, bathroom fixtures and other enhancements. Work also continues in the wound-down assisted living wing, where the ground-floor has been converted to a main entrance lobby for the community.
But the largest capital improvement planned for the site — a new outdoor pool — has yet to break ground. Engineering for that project remains in the works, and initial permits from the city were recently awarded, said Brentwood principal Barry Zolty. He said they hope to start construction in the coming months and complete the project after about four months.
Plans call for the pool to connect with an opened-up portion of a building that was previously used as an auditorium. That space is being converted into a community room and fitness center.
A new library is now housed in a converted lobby area, and other building lobbies have been updated with brighter color schemes and LED lighting.
Of all the updates going on, Zolty said the change in dining options is one of the biggest, with an in-house team now running the renamed Legacy Club restaurant, and the now-named LIV Tavern bar and Bellevue Bistro cafe renovated and reopened.
Brentwood and Bluestone had brought in Hannah Brown and Matt Dougherty, owners of Fat Boy’s Bar & Grill in Sandston, to consult on the Legacy Club. Zolty said the restaurant’s volume has reached a level where it’ll be managed in-house, which he’s described as a move away from a previous institutional-style operation and meal plan model.
While he said LIV’s occupancy had “a bottoming-out period” during the initial assisted-living transition — a process that involved relocating those residents to other assisted-living facilities in the area — Zolty said leasing activity has been climbing steadily since. He said occupancy is currently over 80 percent.
Steven Wilkins, LIV’s regional operations director, said they had some residents leave because they had been planning on using the assisted living care provided by Imperial Plaza’s previous operator. The transition to solely independent living follows Brentwood and Bluestone’s vision of transforming the complex into what Wilkins said they’re now calling a “50-and-up” community.
Where most “active adult” communities are targeted to residents 55 and up, Wilkins said they changed their marketing to 50-and-up based on community response.
Wilkins, who previously worked at Imperial Plaza in a similar role and was recruited back after departing in 2020, said he’s been impressed by the work put into LIV.
“Being involved and seeing how things were done before, what Brentwood has been able to do in a short 12 months has been inspiring,” Wilkins said. “It’s a process when you’re talking about this size of a project. And we’re not done. There’s still so much to more to come.”
Brentwood, based in New Jersey, and Bluestone, based in New York, purchased the 1960s-era complex in early 2021 for $75 million. They haven’t specified how much they’re putting into the renovations but have described the effort as a multimillion-dollar investment.
Once completed, LIV is planned to total about 830 apartments, a reduction from Imperial Plaza’s 950 units. Wilkins said all the apartments will be renovated.
“We’re replacing everything to the deadbolts and doorhandles,” he said.
The apartments range from 360-square-foot studios to 1,700-square-foot two-bedroom units, with rents starting from about $1,000 a month for the studios to $2,100 for a two-bedroom, according to LIV’s website. Units on building corners are marketed as penthouse apartments, with higher-floor units enjoying skyline views.
Elsewhere in the buildings, artwork of local landmarks and scenes now decorate hallway corridors, and large flat screens equipped with DirectTV have been added to community rooms. High-speed internet is being added to the rooms, and Wi-Fi is being made available in the common areas.
Access to the salon, branded as Salon Legacy, was moved from outside to indoors, where LIV also has a pharmacy, grocery and other services for residents. Wilkins said they’re looking to add a bank but said that process was delayed by the pandemic. A doctor’s office also is planned.
Outside, a fenced-in playground that was beside the new pickleball court was converted to a dog park, as the community allows pets of a certain size with additional rent.
Zolty said the changes at LIV go beyond the physical improvements.
“The vibrance in the community is radically different,” he said. “The place has just been cleaned up, and the volume of people who are participating in the daily activities and trips, it’s escalated. We have up to 100 people participating in a dance we hold each month.”
Zolty added, “You’re seeing people alive, and there’s a wonderful sense of community. It’s visible when you enter it.”
On a recent tour of the buildings, one resident told a reporter he’s happy with the changes.
“This is very improved,” he said. “Everybody’s enjoying it.”