$70 million medical facility proposed for Abacoa

A $70 million medical research center to meet the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers becoming senior citizens is proposed for the town’s Abacoa section.

The Institute for Healthy Living would include a 129-bed nursing home, a 70-bed assisted living facility and a 30-bed center for people with brain disorders. The plan by Palm Beach Gardens-based NuVista Living calls for creating a “clinical research organization” that would include a medical partnership with the Scripps Research Institute and Jupiter Medical Center.

“The institute will create the synergy for health care, academia and research,” said Paul Walczak, a developer of the project. The developers also operate the NuVista Living at Wellington Green in Wellington. That center has 120 beds for short-term care and a 52-bed assisted living area.

The four-building Abacoa institute would create about 190 full-time medical jobs within the first two years after opening. The plan calls for Jupiter Medical Center to transfer 60 beds to the institute.

The Jupiter town council is scheduled to vote Dec. 15 on the plan.

The institute “will let us expand our research horizons in geriatric care,” said Roy Smith, the Scripps department chairman for metabolism and aging. Researchers will seek out biological markers for afflictions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and Parkinson’s, he said. A hyperbaric chamber, like the one that recently helped Pro Football Hall of Famer and Tequesta resident Joe Namath improve his memory, is planned.

“The biological markers show the persons at risk. We can then intervene with medicine,” Smith said.

As baby boomers age, geriatric study is growing. Between 2000 and 2010, for the first time in American history, the 65-plus population grew at a faster rate than the population. Nationally, about 10,000 baby boomers — born between 1946 and 1964 — will turn 65 every day until 2030, according to the U.S. Census.

At full operation, about 450 more research and development jobs will be at the institute planned for 9 vacant acres on Central Boulevard just north of Donald Ross Road. Developers hope to start construction in January. Completion is planned in about 15 months, Walczak said.

The plan was proposed four years ago, drawing opposition from Jupiter Medical Center. The new plan is a joint venture involving NuVista, Scripps and Jupiter Medical Center.

The new plan will make the center a cog in the research wheel that is moving toward allowing baby boomers to maintain healthier lifestyles as they get older, said John Couris, chief executive officer and president of Jupiter Medical Center.

“This offers an opportunity to combine the expertise of our medical staff with Scripps as well as offer future educational opportunities with Florida Atlantic University,” Couris said.

The project would be the second by the owners of NuVista Living at Wellington Green. They are Elizabeth Fago, Bill Meyer, E. Llwyd Ecclestone and The Tendrich Group of West Palm Beach.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has approved a certificate of need, which is required before the institute can be built.

“Aging is a disease. We can alter that state. We have the best researchers in the world right in our back yard,” Walczak said.

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