LANSING, N.Y. — Local businesswoman Elizabeth Classen Ambrose has been busy. She’s just opened the doors on her latest senior home in the Bridges Cornell Heights development, bought in as a business partner with both the City Harbor project down on the Ithaca waterfront and the Library Place project, and with this latest purchase in Lansing, her assets now extend out into the suburbs.

In a filing last Wednesday, Classen Ambrose purchased the Horizon Villages senior housing rental development on Horizon Drive in the village of Lansing, paying seller Candace Cima $6,935,666 for the 13-lot assemblage. Cima, with her late husband Alex, developed the 42-unit senior community as part of the larger Horizons residential project in the late 1980s, the village’s first planned community development. While the single-family homes were sold off as they were built, the senior housing has been owned and operated by Candace since the home clusters welcomed in their first residents. Also included in the purchase was the pool and tennis club that serves residents, their families, and neighboring homeowners.

“I’ve known about Horizon Villages for years, there are many folks that come (to Bridges) from Horizon when they need more care. I’ve known that it’s a quiet community, very well run, and have heard only good things about it. There’s always a waiting list. They have easy parking, garages, full basements, it’s always been on my radar. I’ve talked to Candy, it’s been her baby for years. For a long time there was no interest in selling, but I always thought it would be a great property to have in our community. The opportunity came up and I was happy to be able to work with her to acquire that,” said Classen Ambrose.

Classen Ambrose explained that there will be no major changes in the near-term for the community. It will remain independent senior living; housing for seniors aged 55+ who can comfortably take care of themselves or with modest home care services, while passing on tasks like lawn and exterior home maintenance service to Horizons staff. The longtime community manager will be staying on in his role, and Cima herself will maintain a presence in her nearby home when she’s not wintering in Florida. Ambrose added she intends to “keep the units moderately priced”. According to the Tompkins County Housing for Seniors guidebook, rents for the units run from $2,100-$2,300/month for what are currently the largest senior apartments in Tompkins County. Horizon duplex units are mostly 2 bedrooms/2 baths and 1,225 square feet each, plus partially or fully finished basements. The price might look steep, but with the ample space, seniors seem to find it a good value; the county notes that it normally takes a year or more to be invited in from the waiting list for units.

As units become available for rent, Classen Ambrose said she intends to have the interiors renovated and updated before welcoming their next residents. Beyond that, there may be a possibility of building more senior housing or a home care office component on some on the undeveloped lots adjacent to the existing townhomes, but she stressed that such a plan is at least a couple of years from happening. Local developer Travis Hyde Properties, with whom she partnered with for Library Place, is a business partner in the Horizon Villages purchase, but as a seasoned senior housing operator, Classen Ambrose will handle the managerial aspects.

“We’re going to stay the course and add some additional programming, maybe some quarterly social mixers. There’s not like a community center, but they have a pool, tennis, a playground, the property is just loaded with families and grandparents. It’s really sort of a cool concept Candy has had going all these years, with the ‘club’ access to the neighbors that are not a part of the village. They love being able to come over, she has lifeguards, it’s a really sweet operation quite frankly. We have some similarities in our management style with our residents and it was just a good fit for us.”

With this, Library Place and the expansion of Bridges Cornell Heights, it’s clear Classen Ambrose sees senior housing as a business opportunity. When asked about it, she downplayed it as less of an opportunity, and more like something she’s good at that just happens to align with favorable demographics.

“I think it’s a wise investment in most places. Because of the aging population, even on the back of my business card, it says ‘2021, be ready’, 2021 being when many of the oldest of the baby boomers will start to need care. It’s just going to grow from here. At this stage of my life I don’t see reinventing myself. It’s what I do and I love it. I have an understanding of what they need and it’s a good fit for me.”

“I was super-fortunate for being able to buy Horizon Villages, I think Candy was interested in handing it off to someone with a history and track record of providing quality care, and feel at ease and have the piece of mind that it would be in good hands. She had to decide between offers, and I think that’s why she chose us. She told me she wanted her residents to be in good hands, and we connected on a lot of levels.”

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.