As part of a nationwide expansion effort, Senior Campus Living, the pioneering developer of Charlestown Retirement Community, has hired a senior executive of the American Express Co. to run the company's daily operations.

The move frees up the company's founder, John C. Erickson, to focus on identifying sites for what he called an aggressive expansion of the 10-year-old company, which opened its prototype on the grounds of a former seminary in Catonsville in 1983. Charlestown, with 2,400 residents, is the largest housing development for middle-income senior citizens in the country, according to the company.

The appointment of Brian P. Froelich, who is expected to start work this summer, comes as Senior Campus Living launches a five-year plan "to start a new city each year -- at a minimum," said Mr. Erickson, 50, who will remain as chairman and chief executive officer. "I am trying to get the company ready for that."

The company also recently appointed a new chief financial officer, Mark Palmer, who was head of finance for the Courtyard Hotel division of Marriott International Inc.

Senior Campus Living, which is 95 percent owned by Mr. Erickson and 5 percent by his brother, Michael, who oversees national marketing, operates $300 million worth of property at three sites. Mr. Erickson said he expects that to grow to $1.5 billion in five years. Senior Campus Living also oversees campus operating funds of $125 million.

Mr. Froelich, a lawyer, was instrumental in the growth of travel management services and the corporate card divisions of American Express. His own travel business was acquired by American Express in 1984 after he had built it into a $200-million-a-year business. Once at the credit company, he served as executive vice president, overseeing the growth of American Express' Travel Related Services Co. Inc., into a $2 billion business.

Mr. Froelich will be the top executive in charge of the company's daily operations, Mr. Erickson said, adding his title would be announced next week.

"He is very good at growth management. He looked at this [Senior Campus Living] and how it would relate to the aging in America and saw a challenge," Mr. Erickson said. "The good part of it is that I spent 10 years figuring out what it should look like, and now he will take it around the country."

Senior Campus Living expects to complete site acquisitions in Prince George's County and in Pittsburgh by the end of the year.

Other campuses developed and managed by Senior Campus Living are Henry Ford Village in Dearborn, Mich., a 39-acre site, and Oak Crest, an 85-acre site under development at Joppa Road and Walther Boulevard in Parkville.

The company spends $50 million a year on new development, with each campus ultimately costing $200 million to $300 million to build. Start-up financing typically comes in the form of bank loans.

In Maryland, the popularity of the projects has been impressive. The first two buildings at the Parkville site, for example, are 80 percent sold even though the ground is just now being leveled.

Mr. Erickson built his company on the philosophy that senior citizens want to live on their own and can do so for many years if given the right support system. The community he developed is aimed at the middle class, people who own their own homes and have incomes of $15,000 a year or more.

Until it was built, retirement communities were commonly geared to people with very high incomes and offered more limited amenities. The 110-acre Charlestown campus on Maiden Choice Lane is a town within a town, a place where people can retire, receive medical assistance in their homes and, if needed, move into a nursing facility on the campus for full-time care.

The average age of residents is 77, and the majority of residents -- 2,000 people -- live independently in their own apartments. For a fixed monthly fee of between $666 and $1,148, they get an apartment, one main meal a day, help with their garden maintenance and taxes paid.

The campus has 15 buildings, a 220-seat theater, a concert season, a 7,000-volume library run by residents, a shuttle service to malls, shows, and lectures, and 40 to 50 planned activities on any given day. It recently completed a $7.5 million expansion of its nursing care center, adding 148 single rooms for a total of 270 rooms.

Charlestown also has its own medical clinic, with six full-time doctors and 16 specialists on call.

In addition to a monthly rental fee, Charlestown charges a refundable entrance fee, ranging from $48,000 for an efficiency to $276,000 for a deluxe two-bedroom apartment. The money is refunded in full when a resident leaves or paid to his or her estate after death. In the interim, it is used by Senior Campus Living to pay off its construction debt. As a result, the company is virtually debt free, Mr. Erickson said.

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