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The City Journals

Taylorsville High School students are among those who have voted Summit Vista a ‘Great Place to Work’

Apr 26, 2019 09:56AM ● By Carl Fauver

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

A year ago, the Summit Vista Life Plan Community (3390 West 6200 South) had barely 10 employees and was a world of hard hats, saw dust, rebar and dreams. Now, the 105-acre site — 5 acres larger than the San Diego Zoo — is home to 110 employees, with 88 percent of them calling it a “Great Place to Work.”

Among those giving the growing site a thumbs-up are Taylorsville High School juniors David Quezada, Daniel Freed, Trace Whitehead and Braydon Shampton.

“I started here last October earning $10.50 per hour, and I love it,” Quezada said. “The pay, hours and people are all good. I have recommended this place to several friends looking for part-time jobs.”

The Taylorsville foursome are among 25 high school students Summit Vista employs from several area schools. All except one work in the site’s three full-service restaurants and small grocery store. The exception is Freed, who works about 20 hours a week. Or at least he did, until taking a leave to try out for the Taylorsville boys’ tennis team.

“I just saw the big buildings going up and decided to stop in to see if they were hiring,” the junior said of how he landed his job last September. “They started me at $12 per hour which, honestly, was higher than I was expecting. I work in housekeeping— vacuuming and cleaning— I like it.”

“We are having a lot of success with our high school students and are glad to be providing this opportunity for them,” said Summit Vista Human Resources Director Tineka Hardwrick. “After working in health care for 12 years, I was excited to start here and get in on the ground floor. Watching the vision evolve into reality has been amazing to me.”

Hired in January 2018, Hardwrick was only Summit Vista’s 10th employee. She supervised the hiring of the next 100, all joining the retirement community staff since April 2018.

And if you think the number of employees grew rapidly, Summit Vista Chief Marketing Officer Kelly Ornberg said residents began arriving even more fast and furious, following their grand opening last fall.

“We had 100 people move in (to 65 apartment homes) in just 100 days,” she said. “That was in the fourth quarter of last year, and we sold 30 additional apartments in the first quarter of this year.”

Summit Vista touts itself as the first senior development of its kind here in Utah.

“There are plenty of retirement communities offering almost no medical assistance,” Ornberg said. “And there are lots of full-service nursing homes. But Summit Vista fills the gap between those two. Communities like this are popular back east, but this is the first of its type in Utah.”

Ornberg goes on to cite a litany of research that shows seniors fare much better when they remain active and engaged with others.

“One study shows, $6.7 billion in medical costs can be tracked back to social isolation,” she said. “We are providing an alternative to help people live longer and with fewer medical issues.”

Summit Vista’s parent company Summit Life Plan Communities is also actively investigating land acquisition opportunities in Virginia, Missouri and Arizona.

“In a few years there will be 84 million baby boomers who are seniors across America,” Summit Vista Executive Director and CEO Mark Erickson said. “(Summit Life Plan Communities) can serve 20,000 of those people in our business alone.”

Erickson learned the planned life community business back east years ago and even spent four years opening similar projects in China.

“That was exciting moving my family over there,” he said. “But we knew eventually we wanted to get back to the United States.”

The company purchased most of its 105 Utah acres from the Department of Transportation, which had held the property to store large equipment and materials during construction of the adjacent Bangerter Highway decades ago.

Among those first people to move into Summit Vista last fall were Rachael and Jerry Stephens, who sold their Sandy home to make the move.

“We have two sons, nine grandkids and one great grandchild,” Rachael said. “Last Thanksgiving, we fed a group of 21 people together in a private dining room here. They all decided that’s going to be our new tradition.”

Rachael is one of four residents serving on an advisory committee.

“We are the go-between people for residents and management,” she added. “We have helped them determine their restaurant menus and what types of group activities or classes should be offered.”

Among the new offerings at Summit Vista are classes operated by the University of Utah’s Osher Lifelong Learning program.

“The U of U people told us they wanted to establish a presence here on the west side of the valley,” Erickson said. “So, our Osher courses are open to residents and non-residents.”

Other groups and activities at the site include book, bridge, travel, family history and glee clubs, along with painting and craft classes, game nights and a technology group, offering iPhone and iPad training.

The site also features a full-size swimming pool, a card room, billiards tables, a beauty salon and a Zions Bank branch.

“Zions gave us a $50 million construction loan to help get us started, and we promised them they could be our exclusive on-site bank,” Ornberg added. “That loan — along with $45 million from investors — got us going. Now we are financing addition construction through our sales.”

As of last month, Summit Vista officials said 94 of the 114 apartments in their first building were either occupied or under contract. Their second 100-apartment building is scheduled to open in October, with half of those apartments already claimed as well. The Taylorsville City council recently approved a construction permit for a third building. Ground on that 95-unit building is scheduled for this May 2019.

“If sales continue as they are going, we plan to have 1,800 apartment homes on the property, along with three large clubhouses and medical facilities,” Ornberg said. “Demand continues to grow, so we don’t see any reason why that won’t happen.”

At its annual awards gala in February, ChamberWest also named Summit Vista its “Best New Business of the Year.”