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The Manor House, once a troubled asset, now spiffed up with expansion

By Howard B. Owens

It's a good thing Gordon Davis likes Batavia. He's been spending a lot of time here the past several months.

Davis, a Portland, Oregon, resident, is the managing partner of The Manor House. Since the beginning of the year, the retired urban planner has had little time for the sculpture he loves. He's been too busy rescuing the former Victorian Manor from the bankruptcy of Sunwest, paying off past-due bills to contractors for nearly $2 million and overseeing the completion of two new residential wings at a total cost of more than $4 million.

AUDIO: Listen to Davis tell the story of his investment in Victorian Manor (mp3).

If you get a chance to walk with Davis around the new wings -- which added 50 apartments --  you can tell Gordon is clearly proud of what The Manor House has become. The once troubled asset is now a jewel in his eyes, and Davis clearly believes it's among the best facilities of its kind.

Davis and his fellow partners -- which includes his wife as well as eight other people spread around the country -- were in danger of losing all of the money they put into the Victorian Manor after Sunwest imploded. For Davis, stepping in with a plan to rescue that investment wasn't just a financially defensive move -- he believes in The Manor House and he believes in Batavia.

"My wife and I saw this (when Sunwest first presented the investment opportunity) and we thought it was a real solid property in a really good area," Davis said. "We didn't know a lot about the area, but it felt like it was a good area. We did enough of our own due diligence to think this is a good market and the property really looked excellent."

When Davis looks at the financial viability of his investment, he notes that not only is there an aging population in Genesee County (most, but not all, Manor House residents are from Genesee County), it's centrally located between Rochester and Buffalo. Also, the growing social-services industry in Batavia provides a lot of compatible opportunities.

"This is really the center for those kinds of support services," Davis said. "There are different kinds of services (from the Veteran's Home to the new Depaul facility) and the different kind of support services is really fundamentally good for Batavia. It not only brings in those folks (the residents), it brings in their families."

The expanded Manor House will eventually employ about a dozen more people, but first comes filling up all of the new apartments in the recently completed East and West wings.

Often, people think of retirement as a chance to move to the sunny South, but Davis says, for a lot of retirees, that just isn't as appealing as staying close to home.

"What we fundamentally like is where we live," Davis said.  "I think many times that’s what people are looking for. They want to live in a place that feels good to them, that is familiar to them, that has the kind of lifelong connections that they have, and maybe they have family close by."

The Manor House offers three different apartments -- studios, one bedroom, two bedrooms. Residents receive three meals a day, weekly cleaning, activities and transportation.

The youngest resident of The Manor House is 64 and the oldest is 97, but the average age, Davis said, is somewhere in the mid-80s.

"We’re looking for the couple for whom three meals a day has really become a burden, or for the single who has lost a spouse and really needs a community," Davis said. "We’re looking for people who want to live the next phase of their life in a way that has a stronger community, has more people and more things that are taken care of for them."

Tours of The Manor House are available daily.

After the jump, more pictures:

There was one large community room in the original facility. The West Wing added three smaller community areas. This one has a stove and refrigerator and can be used for a variety of gatherings, from watching football or movies to ice cream socials or birthday parties with families. Gordon said he recently used the stove to bake cookies, which he left on the counter, and they didn't last long.

During the day, this studio serves as a model showroom. When Gordon is in town, it's also where he stays. They decided to decorate a studio rather than one of the other apartments to show just how comfortable and roomy the studios can be.

Yes, residents can have cats -- and dogs upon approval.

This is another of the common rooms -- it's on the third floor and has more masculine decor. The second floor is more feminine. The Manor House now has 10 men living there and Davis said they've become buddies.

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