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Retirees flocking to region

Mike Sion

The Reno area seemed an ideal place for

building an upscale retirement community

and a year after opening, Promenade on

the River is at 60 percent occupancy and its

president expects to have all 84 of the villa

apartments filled by next summer.

The apartments range from $1,500 to

$4,000 a month, utilities included. The

three-story facility offers gourmet meals,

24-hour security, an activities director,

rooftop pool, spa, fitness center and art

studio.

Who’s moving in?

“It’s a very interesting phenomenon,”

says Phil Shapiro, Promenade president.

“Three-quarters of our residents are from

out of the county, and most of them are

from out of the state.”

Two-thirds of the Promenade residents

who migrated to Nevada came from

California, Shapiro says. They’re taking

advantage of the lower cost of living in the

Silver State, plus the cultural amenities

performing arts, galleries, cinema complex,

library and university all within a mile

of the facility across the river from downtown

in old southwest Reno’s Newlands

neighborhood.

neighborhood.

They’re also spending money.

“When seniors come into the market, they have, on average,

one of the highest discretionary incomes of any population

cohort,” says Shapiro, who doubles as a consultant for

senior-living facilities around the West Coast.

“They buy a lot of house-care-related supplies, like pharmaceuticals

and toiletries. There is a big trend for seniors

buying computer equipment.”

Empty-nesters and older retirees are flocking to the Reno

area, swelling a growing population of seniors who are

wielding an impact on the area’s economy.

The exact number of older equity migrants and amenity

migrants people generally age 55 and older who sell

homes in higher-priced markets elsewhere to get more bang

for the buck, and who are drawn by northern Nevada’s

lifestyle attractions has yet to be determined. But the

sheer number of retirement-age residents is growing in

Washoe County at a faster rate than the population as a

whole.

The overall growth in the number of retirees in Washoe

County is outpacing that of overall population growth, and

is expected to continue doing so.

Population statistics compiled by Nevada State

Demographer Jeff Hardcastle, based on the 2000 U.S.

Census plus a formula for estimates and projections in the

future, show that the age 65-plus category slightly outpaced

overall population growth in Washoe County from 1991 to

2000. In 2000, the 35,544 residents age 65 and over

accounted for 10.4 percent of the county’s 341,935 residents.

But in 2001, the 65-plus category grew 7.3 percent compared

to the county’s overall increase of 3.3 percent. In 2002,

the rate for 65-plus leveled off to 1.9 percent growth,

although still higher than the county’s overall increase of 1.3

percent.

Those of standard retirement age currently account for

10.9 percent (38,868) of Washoe’s 357,776 residents, and are

projected to comprise 12.2 percent (48,544) of the county’s

population in 2010, and 16.2 percent (72,515) in 2022

(when Washoe is projected to have 447,794 residents).

On a state level, 95 percent of Nevadan residents age 55-

plus come from elsewhere. That’s the finding of a 1997

report by the Senator Alan Bible Center for Applied

Research at the University of Nevada, Reno. Researchers

performed a telephone survey to gauge the migration in and

out of Nevada of the state’s age 55-plus population, in a

report for the state’s Division of Aging Services and the

Regional Transportation Commission.

About two-thirds of respondents owned their own

homes, slightly more than half had completed at least some

college, and about three-fifths were married. The majority

were classified as amenity migrants choosing to live in a

favorable climate conducive to a retirement lifestyle, and

with low taxes.

Lawrence Weiss, director of the Sanford Center for

Aging at the University of Nevada, Reno, divides the

migrant retirees into two categories: those healthy and active

and attracted by outdoor recreation, and those at an

advanced age who require assisted living or a more protected

living environment, but also enjoy gambling. Each category

is drawn by northern Nevada’s livability, and exhibit consumer

clout,Weiss says.

“The early retirees sell their houses for $500,000,

$600,000, $700,000 and come here and buy one for

$250,000 and get just as much if not more, plus no state

income tax. That’s the primary reason they move here.

Secondary is the lifestyle.We have only about 330,000 people

in our area, as opposed to several million. It’s easy to get

around town and there’s lots of scenic beauty.

“These healthy, younger retirees, in their 50s, 60s and

70s, are very active. They’re skiers, hikers. They belong to

health clubs. They come here for the lifestyle. They’re not

necessarily your Cadillac buyers but probably SUVs or RVs.

They patronize the arts scene, travel a lot.”

The older, less active retirees may be aging parents seeking

retirement communities and or medical aides,Weiss

says. “They’ve got resources here such as downtown gambling

and the entertainment that goes with it. People come

here, they love to gamble. You cannot ignore that.”

Toscana Active Adult Community, on Vicenza Drive in

northeast Sparks next to the D’Andrea Country Club has

filled about 200 of its 480 private houses since models were

completed in February 2001, says Mike Rau, Toscana vice

president for corporate marketing.

The gated community, which includes a 12,000-squarefoot

clubhouse, restricts residency to households with at least

one resident age 55 or over. Full occupancy is expected by

fall 2004 in the community of two- and three-bedroom

houses, which range from $161,000 to $280,000 from

$40,000 to $70,000 less than in an active adult community

in California Rau says.

About 55 percent of Toscano’s residents average age

63 are from California, and another 15 percent from elsewhere

outside Nevada, Rau says. They have spending power,

and are on the go, he says.

“Certainly they’re equity rich, coming from the Bay area

or Sacramento,” Rau says. “They have a tremendous amount

of impact on the retail economy. Because they’re equity rich,

they bring that equity into local Nevada banks. They’re not

opening check accounts for $1,000. They’re transferring

funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“They travel, ski, hike, bike, attend local arts events. They

eat out a little bit more. They do love to use the local casinos.

In terms of shopping, obviously they all have kids and

grandkids. They’re tremendous shoppers, sending gifts.We

have a post office across the street. The employees talk about

seeing so many people sending packages all the time.

“They certainly tend to buy newer cars. You don’t see old

junkers. And they tend to buy American cars, the Buicks,

Cadillacs, Chevys.”

Ben Scott, owner of a luxury-car business, Scott Motor

Co., on South Virginia Street, sees wealthy retirees moving

into northern Nevada as part of a long-term trend of people

with money moving to a place with no state income tax.

More retiree transplants in Reno simply reflects the area’s

overall population growth, Scott says.

“These guys moving from California with money are our

kind of customers,” he says. “We’ve all noticed that there are

a lot of wealthy people moving into the area. But Reno has

always had a high proportion of wealthy people. I can

remember in the ’50s, Reno was good Cadillac country

because there were so many upper-income people here.”

Sales of Cadillac Escalades and Ford Range Rovers

reflect their buyers’ active lifestyles, Scott says. They can be

younger entrepreneurs, entertainers or athletes living at Lake

Tahoe, he says, but they also can be older, recreation-minded

people.

“When you sell a $50,000 to $70,000 car, typically the

guy is older, because he’s made a lot of money.”

A special demographic factor may point to continued inmigration

of retirees to Reno, Shapiro says.

A common denominator of residents at Promenade on

the River is that they have adult children living in the Reno

area who want their aging parents living closer, he says.

More than 70,000 households in Washoe County have at

least one member aged 45-59, Shapiro says. Assuming at

least two people live in those households, there probably are

some 140,000 people, most of whom have at least one parent

age 70 or older, he says.

Typically, these parents live far away, Shapiro says. But as

time goes on, an increasing number of these adult children

will want to have their parents move close by, he says.

“We’re a very frenzied society, and make up for things

with e-mail and voice mail, but it’s not the same as living

around the corner from your family.When health crises

occur, and you have to intervene on behalf of your parents to

change the housing, what do the kids do? The support network

really is making an about-face.”

Reno the “Biggest Little City” is especially attractive

for younger, active retirees and older ones, Shapiro says.

“It’s simplicity. Ease of living. You don’t have to skirt

through busy Chicago or San Francisco or New York. You

don’t need cabs to get around from our location.”

If San Francisco Bay area real estate were in a seller’s

market, even more retirees would be moving to northern

Nevada, says Rod Boyle, membership director of

ArrowCreek Gold Club, in the upscale ArrowCreek development

in the south Truckee Meadows.

“They would love to come here and enjoy the Nevada tax

break, and be 15 minutes from the airport or downtown, and

have friends and family come up to visit because it’s a tourist

town,” Boyle says. “The views are fantastic.”

But plenty of Bay transplants already have moved in,

Boyle says. About 75 percent of his club’s 230 members are

from out of state, and about half are retirees, he says.

“Some days I call us ‘ArrowCal or ‘ArrowBay.'”