Eastside demographics have shifted, and “Blah-vue” clearly is a thing of the past. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, the Seattle metropolitan area is home to more than 99,700 people of Chinese descent and 37,000 Asian Indians.
As the area continues to diversify, businesses are working to help newcomers and diverse populations feel more at home. Ethan Allen, for example, is printing catalogs in multiple languages. Homebuilder Auspicious Homes and assisted-living company Aegis Living are ramping up their accommodation efforts, too.
Aegis broke ground in July on a new retirement community in Newcastle. That Aegis is building a new community is not noteworthy — the company has almost $400 million in active construction projects around the Puget Sound. What is unique is the new community will be the second Aegis retirement and assisted-living community designed for Chinese and Chinese Americans. The communities feature tai chi instructors, feng shui consultants, and bilingual medical staff.
In 2000, Aegis completed its first retirement community for those of Chinese descent, Aegis Gardens, in Fremont, California. The building reached full occupancy 26 months after opening.
“When we started that building, people said no Chinese are going to want to move their parents into a retirement community because they keep their parents at home and take care of them,” Dwayne Clark, CEO of Aegis, said. “This kind of lifestyle would be disrespectful.”
Time has proven naysayers wrong. Fremont Aegis Gardens’ occupancy rate, at 97 percent, is the highest in the company’s history.
Aegis Gardens in Newcastle is filling rooms early. The community will open after a 22-month construction period, and 14 percent of the 110 rooms already are sold. Aegis facilities usually open with a 25 percent occupancy rate, which will be the case when a new community in Queen Anne opens in September.
“There’s nothing really that competes with the kind of (luxury retirement Chinese community) we want to build and establish,” Clark said. “It takes a lot of trial and error to get there, and we were very lucky that we had a Chinese advisory board 15 years ago to help educate us. We paid a lot of stupid tax to get where we are.”
Also in July, Eastside resident Mike Stewart launched Auspicious Homes to cater to the Asian Indian population through home designs based in Vaastu principles.
“If you’re going to build a home that’s $1.2 million or $1.5 million, do it right. They have the money to buy new-construction homes, but it’s not the product they truly want,” Stewart said of the area’s Asian Indians. “They really do want things like prayer rooms and spice kitchens and multigenerational living.”
Stewart also caters to his customers’ tech backgrounds. Auspicious Homes’ purchase process begins with real-time tracking and digital change orders. The homes themselves feature connected devices.
“We might end up probably developing small Vaastu communities where all the homes face the same way, but that’s far in the future, and right now I’m just focused on selling one or two homes,” Stewart said.
As the tech industry matures, more India- and China-born residents will settle on the Eastside, as will cosmopolitan tech employees who often travel abroad. Those who practice Hinduism, or hold Vaastu principles in high regard, could fuel demand for these specially designed homes.
“If you’ve lived abroad, even if you have a job, it’s still foreign. You’re still lonely even if you’re in your house with your family and there’s a nice world around you,” Stewart said. “I think creating more ways for people to meet people, go out and smile and enjoy it is important, because this is a great place to live.”