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Clayton firm brings home ‘boutique’ retirement living

A new multi-story retirement community center owned by the St. Louis-based company Allegro is opening in Richmond Heights. The owners say the complex will feature upscale ‘boutique’ amenities.

Retirement community developer Allegro considers its latest location, in Richmond Heights, to be a bit of a homecoming. 

For two decades, Allegro has managed 17 properties in three  states from its headquarters in Clayton. But the Richmond Heights complex will be its first in Missouri.

“I’m able to do the normal St. Louis thing and answer what high school did you go to,” chuckled Douglas Schiffer, president and chief operating officer of Allegro.

He’s also able to tell you what synagogue he grew up at. Schiffer was raised at Temple Israel, which his father, Laurence, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, still attends.

The elder Schiffer, a Washington University alumnus and Clayton resident, is particularly proud of the new complex going up at 1055 Bellevue Ave. The four-story assisted living and memory care facility is expected to have 87 units, with studio and one-bedroom apartments in a structure Allegro says will have the look and feel of a classy boutique hotel.

“The whole building is basically a place that the residents can congregate and not stay in their room,” Laurence Schiffer said. “Our theory is that it is a social model.”

The complex will include a spa, salon, barber shop and rooftop deck, as well as an exercise room, garden, lounges and a stadium-style movie theater.

Allegro says the rooms will exude luxury, from walk-in closets to granite countertops.

Construction is underway, and the first residents are expected to be settling in by autumn.

“We’re thrilled and excited to finally be coming to our hometown,” Douglas Schiffer said. “That has been something we’ve been striving for a long time.”

Schiffer, 55, a native of Town and Country, said that the senior housing field is fraught with challenges but that the rewards make it worthwhile.

“Being able to create a nice culture where people want to work with us and don’t feel like they have to work with us is the thing that makes me the proudest,” he said.

In addition to good people, Schiffer said good programs are important. Twenty-six of the units will be reserved for memory care. Ensemble, Allegro’s initiative to help those suffering from dementia and related issues, includes activity stations for pastimes such as woodworking or gardening as well as stimulating artwork and music. A touch screen allows residents to play games or see places they might like to visit.

Everything is geared toward the individual, he said.

“Each person has their own plan,” Schiffer said. “There are very specific needs that different residents will need to have covered.”

That’s the key to Ensemble, which aims to evoke recollections from the past.

“It is working through different memory exercises because, as the disease progresses, you begin to lose memories of recent times but your childhood, teen years, dating life and all of that stays quite vivid for many people, so you focus on those kinds of things,” he said. “There is a lot of storytelling. We do use some additional aids, different types of technology that help elicit memories and interactions.”

But the primary focus of Allegro isn’t on memory care or even health care. Douglas said that the idea is to create a warm and welcoming community rather than a sterile medical setting.

“We think of the people who choose to live with us as residents, not as patients,” he said. “Even though in this case, the property is assisted living and memory care, what we try to do is focus on the lifestyle and the amenity package and what is important to the individual.”

Schiffer said the health component is still an important part of the equation.

“But that’s not the thing we want to remind them of everyday,” he said. “We want to remind them that this is a wonderful place to live.”

Douglas Schiffer compares it to life aboard a cruise ship, where meals and activities are provided.

“It is really a place where people can be together but, at the same time, can live out their lives without having to worry about taking care of a house, paying the electric bill, mowing the lawn,” he said.

Still, for him, it all comes back to the human element: staffing Allegro with friendly folks who aren’t just coming to work to earn money.

“The people side is that when you walk in, there is a cheery hello, somebody who actually notices you are there,” he said.

For more information about Allegro, call 314-332-8372 or visit online at allegroliving.com.