Building With the Elderly in Mind

By ELSA BRENNER

AFTER a several-year hiatus, four assisted-living facilities and a continuing-care retirement community are finally being developed in Westchester County, an underserved market with a large and rapidly growing population of wealthy elderly residents, builders say.

The lull in construction of retirement housing came about not only because of the tight lending market for developers, but also because of the challenges that potential residents face in selling their homes and freeing up equity to rent or buy in.

Meanwhile, projections from the county’s planning department indicate that Westchester’s 60-and-over population is expected to increase 34 percent by 2030, reaching 244,690. Out of a total county population of about 923,460, the number of residents 85 or older has increased over the last decade by almost 29 percent, to 22,727. Census numbers indicate that this will jump to 23,086 by 2030, and to 26,782 by 2035.

“In Westchester and the rest of the country, the demand has never been greater,” said Frank Rose, a managing member of RFR Consulting Group, which advises the assisted-living industry.

Atria Senior Living, a Louisville, Ky., chain, has just renovated an assisted-living community in Ossining that had been closed for three years. Engel Burman, which has assisted-living facilities on Long Island, plans to build two such communities in Westchester — one in the former St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains and the other, to go up next year, in Armonk.

Also, Fountain Square Senior Living of Reston, Va., is about to open the Kensington, across from White Plains Hospital.

Of the four, all of which are rentals costing anywhere from $3,500 to $10,000 a month, only the Kensington will offer both assisted living and nursing care. The other three offer residents help with basic tasks like dressing and eating, but do not provide services for the more infirm.

Steven Krieger, a partner in Engel Burman, describes his company’s facilities, and all such baseline assisted-living facilities, as “five-star hotels for seniors,” saying they adhere to the social model rather than the medical model of retiree housing.

The fifth new facility in Westchester, the Club at Briarcliff Manor, is to be built as a continuing-care retirement community, which residents buy into and which will offer the full spectrum of services from independent living to nursing care.

According to the state health department, this group will be joining four assisted-living and two continuing-care sites in current operation in Westchester.

Ginger Lynch Landy, a director of the state chapter of the Assisted Living Federation of America, explained that until state law was changed in 2004, assisted-living facilities were not allowed to provide extra services so that residents could age in place. Nowadays they can, though many do not. At Engel Burman facilities, for instance, Mr. Krieger said people tend to stay an average of two and a half years before their deteriorating physical condition requires a move to a nursing home.

Atria Senior Living has 122 units in its Ossining center, about 50 percent occupied. Rents range from $4,995 to $7,200 and include meals and amenities.

The $390 million Club at Briarcliff Manor will charge residents a large upfront but partially refundable fee, ranging from about $400,000 to $1 million, as well as smaller monthly payments, in exchange for a variety of arrangements running the gamut from fully independent living to round-the-clock nursing care. It is being developed by the Integrated Development Group near Chicago in conjunction with the National Electrical Benefit Fund, a $10 billion pension fund in Washington.

But as the Club seeks buyers rather than renters, it will not by law be able to begin construction until the developer receives deposits on half of the 176 independent living units planned for the first stage. As of last week there were 75 deposits. All together, 325 units are planned.

The Kensington, a $40 million, 87-unit assisted-living community, will be certified to care for bedridden patients and those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. The company has a similar assisted-living facility in Kensington, Md.

Monthly fees, also covering meals and other services, will range from $4,000 a month, for a studio, to $10,000 a month for a one-bedroom two-bath unit. Deposits have been received for about one-third of the units, said David Faeder, a managing member of Fountain Square.

Engel Burman has begun a $30 million rehabilitation of the St. Agnes Hospital, which it bought from North Street Communities. It plans 136 apartments for the elderly and expects to begin construction this fall.

North Street acquired the 23-acre St. Agnes site at a state-run auction in December 2004, paying $21.4 million. But as Benny Caiola, a principal of the company, said: “The economy held things up. Financing has been very difficult.” (Engel Burman paid North Street $6 million for the hospital building, and North Street’s original plans to build condos on the rest of the site have been put off, Mr. Caiola said.)

Engel Burman also plans to begin construction early next year on its Armonk assisted-living facility, a $35 million three-story structure with 140 units. Both there and at the former St. Agnes facility, rental rates are to range from about $3,500, for a shared suite, to about $7,000 for a two-bedroom.

Original Article from NYT