Starting at $4K a month, Trumbull ‘cruise ship’ offers retirees lobster and other amenities in resort-style setting

The River Valley Retirement Community, in Trumbull, Conn. April 15, 2021.

The River Valley Retirement Community, in Trumbull, Conn. April 15, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

TRUMBULL — Starting at $4,000 a month, residents of the River Valley Retirement Community can enjoy things like lobster rolls, an on-site movie theater and round-the-clock service in a “cruise ship” resort-style setting.

“Have some lobster!” Carol Maddock, one of the property managers, said as she greeted visitors in the building’s main atrium that features an indoor waterfall and four fireplaces across three levels. The seafood truck in the parking lot spent eight hours on site Thursday serving up buttery lobster rolls to tenants and guests.

River Valley, which opened two weeks ago on Oakview Drive, offers what the company calls over-55 resort living for rents starting in the mid-$4,000 range for a one-bedroom.

The all-inclusive property features sit-down or room service meals plus a 24-hour ice cream and sandwich snack bar and on-demand pizza and burgers. There also is a full-time activities director, an open beer and wine bar, a billiards room, gym with a sauna/spa, game room, arcade, meditation room and chapel, party room, library, 150-seat movie theater and live performance space with nightly film screenings. It also includes housekeeping, on-call transportation, 24-hour concierge, valet parking and more.

All of these services come at a price, and River Valley slots solidly into the very top of the market in all the new apartment complexes in the area. Kelly Jo Hinrichs, the company’s vice president of marketing, said its target tenants were people looking to retire in the “mid-to-upper” range of rental communities. Maddock said one-bedroom apartments start “in the fours” and two-bedrooms fetch rents “in the mid-fives.”

Maddock, who along with her husband Kevin, comprise the live-in management team at River Valley, had just relocated from a Chattanooga property owned by the same company, Nebraska-based Resort Lifestyle Communities.

“We were there two years, opening the community there, and now we came here to do the same,” she said. “This is the beginning, the part that’s really fun and exciting.”

And if the company calls River Valley a resort lifestyle, the staff also has embraced the unofficial nickname the town has given it.

“You mean ‘the cruise ship on land?’ Hinrichs said when asked if she had heard it all the way out in Lincoln, Neb.

Maddock found the name amusing, too.

“And it’s even better because it’s not rocking with the waves,” she said.

Trumbull Economic and Development Director Rina Bakalar used the term in a meeting earlier this year, but she said she had heard Planning & Zoning Commissioner Anthony Chory describe River Valley that way during the approval process.

“He said, ‘So, it’s like a cruise ship, except it’s on the land,’” Bakalar said. The name stuck.

Maddock said residents in some of the company’s other properties had yet another comparison for the lifestyle, citing the meal plan and socializing in the library and game room.

“They say it’s like a college dorm, but much nicer,” she said. “They’re already asking about forming a drama club and putting on performances for other residents.”

Despite the rents in the mid-$4,000 or more range, and the challenge of opening a luxury retirement complex during a pandemic, Maddock said demand has been strong.

“We opened two weeks ago, and right now we have seven units occupied,” she said. There are signed leases on 14 more apartments with occupants scheduled to move in over the next two months, she said.

Bakalar said that pace put River Valley on schedule for a complex its size. The community has 130 apartments, with one reserved for the Maddocks and another for families of tenants or guests from other Resort Lifestyles properties.

“Typically, when you open a new apartment development, the lease-up is 12 to 18 months from opening,” Bakalar said. “The pandemic probably hurt them a little bit, but it seems like there is a lot of pent-up demand.”

Hinrichs agreed, saying the company was seeing interest from people looking to retire from a New York City lifestyle and head out to the suburbs, and also from local people who took advantage of the housing boom to sell their house and were looking for a luxury living option in an area in which they were already established.

“We tend to have success in places where people want to retire, like Naples, Fla., or in places where people want to be able to continue to associate with their business associations,” she said. “Trumbull is both.”