Sinai Residences opened two years ago with about 360 rooms and suites for independent, assisted and memory care living — and became 100 percent full soon after. Plus, there are 59 names on a waiting list.
“It filled up in six months, which is why everybody else is building these now,” said Wesley Finch, who sits on Sinai’s board of managers.
Sinai is considered a congregate living facility, a place that provides long-term care, housing, food and other assisted care services. They can be as small as serving only six people, and others welcome in hundreds. Some look like grand hotels, and some just stick to the basics. Many are open to those who can live independently but they also offer assisted living and care for residents who have Alzheimer’s disease. They’ve been described as cruise ships, but without the water.
About 10 similar developments are now in various stages of of planning within the county, documents show. The majority of the facilities are for seniors, which speaks to the heightened interest and need for additional communities that owners of existing buildings say exists.
And that’s just in the unincorporated areas of the county. A facility with up to 128 beds is proposed as part of a larger project in Loxahatchee Groves. Late last year, Wellington approved a facility for up to 21 seniors which is now open.
The push for additional congregate living communities has sparked push-back within cities and unincorporated area neighborhoods who fear getting “sandwiched” by the extra development. Still, proponents point to a demographic change they say calls for more housing with amenities for older people.
“They’re coming in and being built. In the old days there’d be a lot where they’d come through the process and they’re never built. Now, pretty much once they’re approved they’re in permitting within a month and then under construction,” said Jon MacGillis, the county’s zoning director. “I just think the population is aging.”
Sinai, west of Boca Raton on the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County campus, is included in the list of development projects. The facility wants to add about 100 more living quarters and two more dining rooms. The County Commission is expected to vote on the plan early next year.
“There’s a definite need,” Finch said.
At Sinai, the average resident is 87 and the oldest person is 103. The price to get in starts at about $500,000 and goes up to about $2 million.
There are restaurants, a spa, a salon, a fitness center, rooms for canasta, bridge and Mahjong, a wine room and a library.
“It’s as nice as any very, very high end condo,” Finch said.
The interest in expanding the industry in the county — and push-back from residents — has recently prompted staff to work on creating a policy for the facilities and requirements for the developments.
Developers proposed two projects , Allegro on Clint Moore Road west of Florida’s Turnpike and Poet’s Walk at Lyons Road and Linton Boulevard, in the Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming and conservation area west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. County rules have limited building in the reserve, but developers have been pushing for more allowance, not only for congregate living facilities.
Allegro proposed 223 beds, and Poet’s Walk, 186. Allegro withdrew its plans in May after strong opposition from neighbors. Poet’s Walk is on hold.
The Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations has concerns about the facilities and where they are being proposed. They could overwhelm a neighborhood because of their size, said Myrna Rosoff, the coalition’s past president. The coalition analyzes development proposals and gives their recommendations to the County Commission.
“We’re in the position right now where we keep saying ‘no’ primarily because the developers are trying to sandwich maximum people in minimum space in terms of acreage,” Rosoff said. COBWRA would rather not see the facilities in the Ag Reserve but if the county allows them, the coalition will work to get the least intrusive solution possible, Rosoff said.
Rosoff said the community does have a need for these facilities, though.
“A lot of people in HOAs are aging out of the larger homes,” she said. “It’s not just here, it’s growing across the nation. We’re aging. The industry is moving ahead very rapidly.”
Rosoff said officials need to keep in mind the younger generation that lives in the county also.
“We’ve got a much younger population now that do not want to see a campus of institutions for elder housing. Not that they’re not attractive, but we want to see restaurants, we want to see a situation that’s lively, that brings commerce to the Boynton Beach Boulevard corridor,” she said.
Bob Schulbaum, president of the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations, Inc. said there is a need because residents are living longer. But the number of these facilities might have reached a point of being “over built,” he said.
“There’s like four or five, I lost track there’s so many in the Delray area,” he said.
He also said some of the locations are too expensive to be affordable for everyone.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick wants the facilities to provide a percentage of rooms for the disabled and at affordable prices.
One of the most recent facilities to get a green light is The Wellery. The County Commission approved it Thursday. York Developments plans to build the 109,000-square-foot “senior lifestyle community,” that will have 94 assisted living units and 31 for memory care.
Developer Paige York said she had numerous third-party market studies done in the area that determined a significant demand for these properties . It will include an outdoor swimming pool, a spa, library and game rooms, fitness and physical therapy and a demonstration kitchen for cooking lessons, she said. Vero Beach-based Watercrest Senior Living will manage the community.
“The Wellery is a new paradigm in premier senior living focused on the overall well-being of our residents through highly personalized and dignified care in a beautiful resort-style setting,” York said in a statement.
County staff said the project fits the area because it adds opportunities of independent and assisted-living housing for the residents of the surrounding 55 and older communities. And about 1,000 feet west, Delray Villas was approved about two years ago to bring in 170 assisted living and memory care beds.
Patrick Rutter, assistant county administrator, said the county has seen a fair amount of activity in these congregate living facilities over the past 10 years.
“It’s the next generation, if you will, of what is traditionally the nursing home,” he said.
Palm Beach Post staff writer Kristina Webb contributed to this story.
Build them, and they will fill-up
A glimpse of proposed congregate living facilities slated for Palm Beach County.
- Villages of Windsor: A facility with a maximum of 347 beds at the southeast corner of Hypoluxo and Lyons roads.
- Boynton Commons: Part of the project is a facility for 120 beds at the northeast corner of Boynton Beach Boulevard and Florida’s Turnpike.
- Resort Lifestyle Communities: A facility for about 190 beds on Palomino Drive east of State Road 7 near Wellington.
- Boynton Atrium: A facility for 148 beds on Military Trail south of Golf Road west of Boynton and Delray. The County Commission approved this in March.