The U.K.’s first LGBTQ retirement community will open in Foster + Partners’ London towers

Putting the Closet In The Rearview

The U.K.’s first LGBTQ retirement community will open in Foster + Partners’ London towers

Tonic@Bankhouse, the first “LGBT+ affirming retirement community" in the U.K.,” will feature 19 fully accessible apartments and shared amenities including a floating garden at the Fosters + Partners-designed Corniche development in London. (Courtesy Tonic Housing)

Tonic Housing, a British nonprofit “focused on creating vibrant and inclusive urban LGBT+ affirming retirement communities” has announced that it has secured a roughly $4.1 million Community Housing Fund loan from London Mayor Sadiq Kahn to realize its first residential retirement haven for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans seniors.

The 19-apartment community, described by Tonic Housing as being the first-of-its-kind in the United Kingdom, will be located at Bankhouse, an upscale assisted living facility within The Corniche. Perched on the south bank of the Thames at Albert Embankment in Vauxhall, central London, the mixed-use riverside development was designed by Foster + Partners and is part of the massive Nine Elms redevelopment zone. Spread across three cylindrical towers ranging from 15 to 26 stories, The Corniche was fully completed in 2019.

“I am proud to support Tonic in creating the UK’s first LGBTQ+ retirement community. London is an open, diverse, inclusive city and I’m delighted to see these long-held plans come to fruition with the help of this loan and my Community-led Housing Hub,” said Kahn in a statement. “Older Londoners deserve to be able to enjoy their later years in comfort and security, surrounded by a thriving, supportive community. I look forward to seeing this realised at Bankhouse and to supporting Tonic’s work to establish further LGBTQ+ affirming developments in the years to come.”

The 19 inaugural Tonic Housing units at Bankhouse, which is operated by nonprofit housing association One Housing, will consist of one- and two-bedroom residences located on the upper four floors of the Foster + Partners-designed facility. New residents will enjoy river views and various shared amenities including a restaurant, bar, rooftop terrace, and “floating garden.”

The so-called Tonic@Bankhouse units are slated to go up for sale later this spring on a shared-ownership basis with residents expected to move in mid-summer, according to a Tonic press release. The organization noted that the securing of the loan marks “a major milestone for LGBT+ housing as there is no LGBT+ affirming provision with care currently in operation in the U.K., despite there being a clearly defined need and demand from within the LGBT+ community.”

Prices for the fully accessible units, which include open-plan kitchens and living and dining areas, will start at around $186,000 for a one-bedroom apartment with a 25 percent ownership share and $249,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. Most units will also have private balconies. Customized care and support packages based on the unique needs of each resident, medical or otherwise, will also be available.

Noting that all Bankhouse staff have LGBT+ training, Tonic elaborated it will work directly alongside future residents to develop a range of community activities and events, including “collaborations with other LGBT+ organizations and support providers.” Speaking to BBC News, Tonic Housing CEO Anna Kear referred to Bankhouse’s current residents as “already a diverse bunch, requesting casino nights and a drag show,” adding: “They are looking forward to new ones moving in.”

Tonic Housing notes that London is home to an estimated 145,000 LGBTQ+ seniors.

It’s frequently the case that LGBTQ+ people of a certain age, who may have lived proudly and openly while younger, find themselves tip-toeing back into the closet during their golden years while seeking specialized care and/or housing. Tonic was founded in large part to combat this trend by creating safe, inclusive, and supportive communities where this simply isn’t an option.

“Many older people have grown up when society was a lot less accepting and to someone moving into a new community and you are not sure how accepting people will be towards you that can be quite intimidating,” deputy mayor for housing Tom Copley told The Evening Standard.

Stateside, similar senior housing schemes catering to the LGBTQ+ population have opened or are planned in cities including Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and, naturally, in the senior and LGBTQ+ desert mecca of Palm Springs, California.

Grant Brooker, a head of studio at Foster + Partners told AN that, “I’m delighted that our building has been chosen to help answer this obvious need and I hope that it will make a great home for everyone that lives there. We should all be able to live our lives openly and without fear or discrimination.”