2024 Judges

Ali Shivji

Principal, Optima Living
Retirement Communities


Ali Shivji is a Principal at Optima Living. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from INSEAD and certificates in Value Based Healthcare Delivery from Harvard Business School and Best Practices in Dementia Care from Johns Hopkins University. Ali is an expert in care, housing, design, and programming for seniors, having worked in strategy and operations in both the public and private health care sectors for over 10 years. He has worked with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom and with McKinsey & Company’s International Health Care practice, primarily focusing on international health care system redesign. He recently served as the Chief Operating Officer for AgeCare, a private senior care and housing company with 10 sites and over 1,800 beds across Canada.

Ben Seager

AIA, LEED AP, Principal


Ben Seager, AIA, LEED AP, has been involved in the design, planning and entitlement of a wide variety of residential, mixed-use and senior housing communities nationwide for 20 years. In 2017, he was tapped to lead KTGY’s Senior Living Practice Group, and since that time, his sole focus has been on senior living, including Active Adult, Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Memory Care. Mr. Seager is responsible for setting project direction during conceptual site planning, overseeing schematic design, and coordinating with the technical team during the design development and construction document phases. Mr. Seager’s strong commitment to client satisfaction is evident by his careful management of each project through schematic design in order to ensure the design vision is realized. His creativity and unwavering focus have led to many successful and award-winning communities.

Bruce Hurowitz

Assoc. AIA, President
MDP | Merlino Design Partnership


Bruce Hurowitz has been a member of the MDP Team for over 34 years. His career path has evolved in step with the growth and success of the firm, from a valued team member to a respected leader. As president of MDP, Bruce is known for his passion and commitment to inspired senior living design. His industry advocacy and accomplishments have earned him recognition as an EFA Design Champion. As MDP celebrates 50 years of designing senior living environments, Bruce looks forward to continuing to push the envelope on inspired design solutions..

Chris Frommell

AIA, Managing Partner
Direct Supply, Aptura


Chris Frommell is a Managing Partner at the Milwaukee-based Aptura, Direct Supply Inc. Chris holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in architectural studies from the University of Illinois.

Eric Krull

Principal & Exec. V.P.
THW Design


Eric Krull is a Principal and Executive Director of THW Design. Eric has worked with more than 50 national senior living organizations, associations and development groups throughout his 27-year career. Eric is a frequent presenter and panelist at national, regional, and state association meetings regarding design awareness for senior living environments.

Gracyn Robinson



Gracyn Robinson, M.Sc., EDAC is the founder of RENOVAHEALTH, a vertically AI-integrated SaaS platform dedicated to aging in place that equips adults with accessible design products and resources through 3D visualization, pairing activities of daily living with desired outcomes. She is an interior designer with an M.Sc. in Healthcare Leadership from Brown University who is driven by gathering market intelligence and whose focus lies in the dynamic hybrid relationship between Seniors Housing, Aging in Place and Long-Term Care. Gracyn has served as an invited jurist on multiple national architecture and design competitions, including Healthcare Design (HCD), Environments for Aging (EFA) and Senior Housing News (SHN). She is EDAC-certified through the Center for Health Design and received her BA from Middlebury College and interior design degree from The New England School of Arts and Design at Suffolk University. She holds certificates from Brown Digital Health Innovation and Oxford SAID Entrepreneurial Venture program. Gracyn is an accredited member of The Center for Health Design and has presented at national aging-related conferences, including Leading Age National, SAGE and Environments for Aging.

Grant Warner



Grant Warner is a Principal at HKS. Grant is passionate about designing senior living environments where residents and their care-partners can thrive. He leads the early planning and design stages of projects, learning from clients and care-partners to program and design the best environment for their unique needs. Grant values empathy, creativity and innovation and infuses these values into the firm’s projects. A Board member of SAGE, an enthusiastic participant in The Sleepover Project, and speaker at national conventions, Grant is a devoted advocate for older adults, enjoys teaching others and loves collaborating with each community to find ways design can help improve quality of life.

Greg Gauthreaux

Associate Principal, Perkins Eastman


Greg Gauthreaux, an Associate Principal with Perkins Eastman, merges his passion for the creative process with a love and curiosity of innovative technology to design spaces that are focused on authentic human experiences. With an expertise in building performance and innovative technologies, Greg leads project teams and stakeholders to understand and navigate the social, economic, and environmental decisions that influence the design of their projects. Greg brings over 15 years of experience in senior living, residential, mixed use, and hospitality projects. His constant exploration for opportunities to converge elements of these practice areas further enriches the environments for his clients and their end users. As a leader in Perkins Eastman’s senior living practice, Greg develops a foundation of trust, collaboration, and empathy to inform his design approach. He uses these core principles to guide clients through the exciting journey of realizing their vision.

John Cronin

AIA. Senior Design Architect
AG Architecture


John brings over 34 years of experience to the design of senior living communities, large-scale housing developments, assisted living and memory care households as well as mixed-use projects. As principal and senior design architect, he develops thoughtful architectural solutions that reinforce a sense of community and mentors emerging professionals on creating contextual concepts. John’s design approach strives to achieve an environment that is well-designed and well-thought-out. In the words of a client, “John is never satisfied with just an acceptable outcome; he pushes the envelope to achieve a superior solution.”

John M. Thatch

Senior Vice President-
Design Innovation


Champion of new thinking and pushing the envelope of design with ideas that create thoughtful, livable & economically viable communities, John paced himself early to lead design excellence into the future.

He is a passionate creative who thrives on the opportunity to design at a variety of scales for a variety of project types.

He is known for challenging project teams to develop the most innovative and economically viable solutions, engaging frequently in design brainstorms. John often gains inspiration for design through travel and walking (or sometimes jogging) the great cities of the world—Paris, Philadelphia, Beijing—always with an eye on its detail. He leads the direction in each of his projects by guiding his team through an understanding of the context and essence of the place. He is a veteran judge of design competitions and a sought-after speaker at national conferences on such topics as active adult communities, urban design emerging markets & trends in community design.

Liz Petersen, AIA

Hord Coplan Macht


Liz is a principal in the Senior Living & Affordable Housing studio. She brings more than 33 years of award-winning architectural design experience to the project team. Liz shepherds the entitlement process, managing in-house staff, consultants and clients toward project approval. She holds client relationships as a critical factor to her success with a project which she works toward by listening to various design factors such as project timing, program, budget and jurisdiction parameters. As a design leader, she utilizes a holistic approach to design, where site and building complement each other while working together to create energetic and timeless spaces.

LuAnn Thoma-Holec

Principal Owner
Thoma-Holec Design


LuAnn’s experience and passion for senior living interior design inspired her to launch a company exclusively dedicated to it. Founded in 2006, Thoma-Holec Design’s award-winning communities are known for their unique, welcoming, and meaningful spaces designed to enhance resident and staff experiences throughout the US and Canada. LuAnn has earned numerous national, regional, and local awards. Her expertise in enhancing the social model of senior living contributes to the marketability of newly constructed and remodeled communities, resulting in faster lease-ups and strong ROIs. LuAnn earned her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design and Museum Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from Arizona State University. She is a Certified National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCDIQ) and Certified Active Adult Specialist in Housing (CAASH), FASID and CID. She is a licensed interior designer in numerous states and serves as a member of LeadingAge, SAGE, ASID and AZ ALFA.

Melissa Banko

Founder and Principal, Banko Design


After honing her craft at two renowned architectural firms in Atlanta, Melissa Banko founded her own studio in 2014. Senior housing design has always been core to the firm’s mission, with an adamant belief that potential residents in this underserved market should have access to timeless, hyper-local design instead of accepting dated interiors or a one-size-fits-all approach. To deliver best in class design, Banko Design applies best practices from hospitality and multifamily markets. In recognition of her contributions to senior living design, Melissa was named a “Design Champion” by Environments for Aging in 2021. She credits this success to her talented and passionate team of interior architects, designers, and procurement agents. The firm has won several prestigious awards, most recently the NEWH Georgia Chapter’s “Top ID” award and IIDA Georgia’s “Best of the Best” (B.O.B.) award.

Melissa C. Pritchard

Managing Principal, SFCS Architects


Inspired by personal experiences and the passion to positively impact our older adults, Melissa is responsible for spearheading the design of major SFCS projects across the country and for leading the firm as Managing Principal. She is focused on elevating all environments for older adults with a deep commitment for high quality of life, and dedication to the design of innovative environments that promote independence and wellness for all. Due to this expertise and her passion for designing for seniors, Melissa was a recipient of the Environment for Aging’s Inaugural Design Champions Award, which celebrates individuals who work each day to push boundaries and continually improve senior living environments. Through independent research on senior issues, providing thought leadership at national and international conferences, post-occupancy evaluations, and fostering collaborative partnerships with clients, Melissa champions SFCS to be one of the senior living national trendsetters.

Ric D’Amico

Senior Living Development Consultant


Ric D’Amico has been a developer for more than three decades and most recently was a partner with The Belaire Group in Des Moines, Iowa, providing senior living development services to both multi- and single-site operators across the country. Mr. D’Amico serves on the National Board of The Society for the Advancement of Gerontological Environments (SAGE) and chairs the Annual “Remodel / Renovation Competition” for Environments for Aging. He has degrees in both Economics and Architecture from the University of Houston.

Steven R. Levin

Managing Member
CapEX Solutions


Steve Levin started his career in senior housing over 35 years ago. During the course of his career, he designed and built a wide range of assisted living, skilled nursing and senior living communities. In 2011, Mr. Levin was approached by AVIV REIT in Chicago to help them take the company public. In 2013, AVIV went public, trading on the New York Stock Exchange. In 2015, AVIV was sold to Omega Healthcare Investors, the largest owner of skilled nursing facilities in the U.S. Levin served as their SVP of Real Estate, developing over $2B of real estate, including 15 new developments for Maplewood Senior Living. In late 2019, Levin, a colleague, and the former chairman of AVIV created Hana2.0 Property Group to acquire senior living and skilled nursing facilities and lease to third party operators. The pandemic forced operations to cease and at the end of 2020, Mr. Levin created CapEX Solutions to provide services to renovate, repurpose and rebuild senior living product.

Thomas C. Levi

LWDA Design


Thomas Levi is an Architect and Urban Designer with over 45 years of experience in the planning and design of senior living, rehabilitation, and healthcare projects. His vision throughout his career has been to develop a design firm that encompasses a holistic design philosophy (client vision, site, building and interior) that fosters project creativity, innovation and responds to the client’s needs. In senior living and care, LWDA integrates four services (architecture, planning, landscape and interior design) to create communities of all sizes, integrate living and working environments, all with the goal of promoting engagement, safety, support and wellness for all users and based on sound social and business approaches. He holds a Bachelor’s degree of Architecture from NDSU and a Masters of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University.

Ward Isaacson

Pope Design Group


Ward Isaacson is the President of Pope Design Group. His 30+ year architectural career in senior living is shaped by his passion for the business of architecture, the impact of good design, and the continued growth of Pope Design Group. He is driven by fostering client and industry relationships, and working collaboratively through the unique challenges and opportunities of each project. Ward has been instrumental in establishing Pope Design Group as a nationally recognized leader in senior living design. He lives Pope’s mission – together, creating environments that enhance lives – and leads by example to continually improves environments for people and communities.