- By Kevin D. Thompson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Arlene Etterman is like most people — she hates moving. It’s especially not fun when you’re 84 and your husband died four years ago from lung cancer.
“I’ve been adjusting to my new single life, but I don’t really want to do it anymore,” Etterman said.
So, she put her three-bedroom, suburban Lake Worth home where she’s lived the past 14 years on the market. As soon as it’s sold, Etterman is moving to Atria at Villages of Windsor , a new, $105 million luxury senior living rental community on 22.5 acres near Lake Worth at the corner of Lyons and Hypoluxo Roads.
“The most important thing is the location,” Etterman said. “It’s very close to where I live right now. I can use the same shopping center and I’m so familiar with the area. It feels very comfortable.”
Owned and operated by Big Rock Partners, the facility, scheduled to open partially in a week, has three types of housing: 179 apartments for independent living; 80 for assisted living and 54 units for residents living with early-to-mid-stage Alzheimers and other memory-related issues.
The complex includes a fitness center, a pool, a movie theater, two restaurants, chauffeured appointments to doctors, a full-time concierge and a salon service.
The goal is to make residents feel like valued guests at a five-star resort.
Rental prices for an independent, one-bedroom apartment start at $4,000 per month and top off at $5,800. Two-bedrooms range from $6,000, to $12,000 for a penthouse suite. For assisted living apartments, rents range from $4,250 to $5,800 per month.
Rents cover the cost of meals, housekeeping, transportation and other services. There are 45 floor plans residents can choose from.
All prices include utilities, wifi coverage, 150 channel DirecTV and local and long distance calls.
Thomas Brockwell, a Big Rock partner, said Atria is the beginning of a new trend in the senior living community market. “You’ll struggle to find something in South Florida that’s this high-end and a rental,” he said. “We’re inventing the project as we do it.”
In West Palm Beach, MorseLife recently opened a 10-story high-end independent living center complete with a spa, cinema, cocktail bar and five restaurants.
As for Atria, so far 97 residents — most of whom live close to the facility — will be moving in, according to Michael Brown, the community’s executive director.
The goal is to open the independent facility on Dec. 1, the memory care center 10 days later and by Dec. 20, assisted living will be open.
But how long will it take to fill up the entire complex?
“That’s the $600,000 question,” Brown said. “If you go by industry standards, it should take between 18 and 23 months, but with the high interest in the location, we think we’re going to beat those numbers pretty substantially.”
Brown said what’s been driving the market the past 20 years is developers offering a high-end product without customers having to put down a substantial amount upfront.
“We’re talking about a buy-in from as low as $350,000 upfront to a high of $1.2 million, and then you’re still hit up for monthly service fees of $5,000 to $6,000,” Brown said.
Since Atria is a rental, Brown said the company isn’t asking for any upfront money. “We’re offering a better product that’s more high-end and it’s our opinion that our business model has room to grow,” he said.
Richard Ackerman, a senior managing principal of Big Rock Partners, told The Palm Beach Post in 2015 that there is a great demand for senior living facilities in central county because of a large demographic of aging and wealthy residents.
Ackerman said he was able to finance the venture through conventional financing. The project has a $68 millon Wells Fargo loan and equity from a real estate investment trust.
Construction started in June 2016, Brown said.
It will take several hundred thousand dollars per month to operate Atria, Brown said.
But the owners made a decision to rent all technology on 3-to-5-year leases. “We constantly want to renew and update,” Brown said. “We don’t want to get stuck seven years down the road with equipment that is ill-equipped or not up to date. We are in a position where we can upgrade and install new and the most modern equipment.”
That’s why, Brockwell said, Big Rock hired Gensler, an architecture firm with limited experience in building a senior living community. “We wanted to bring a completely fresh perspective to senior housing,” he said. “Rather than build a traditional senior living facility, this is modern, contemporary, like a luxury residence.”
Atria does have a resort feel. From the ceiling beams, to the hand-laid tile to the wall’s artwork, it feels as if you’re walking around a luxurious hotel, not a senior living community.
“We had a concerted vision from Day One where we were looking to service and enhance a lifestyle,” Brown said. “We didn’t want our residents to compromise on anything. We wanted a wow factor.”
That’s exactly how Etterman said she felt when she walked into Atria.
“I never lived in an apartment my whole life,” she said. “But there was a nice feeling of warmth and camaraderie here.”