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Royal Palm Beach inching forward on having a senior living center built

Plans to have a senior living complex built on 10 acres in Commons Park inched further ahead after the Village Council directed staff to start preliminary work on a proposal to find a company that would run and operate the facility.

The village has been toying with the idea of building a senior housing facility for years. Three years ago, it hired PMG Associates, a Deerfield Beach market research firm, to determine if there was demand for one.

The village is considering having a facility built north of the park entrance on Royal Palm Beach Boulevard where the Kevin M. Harvin Center now stands.

At this past week’s council meeting, Philip Gonot, a senior economist with PMG Associates, gave an update on the 2011 report, telling council members there would be demand for a facility with 120 to 180 units.

“The population is aging and the market is out there,” Gonot said. “When we first did this study, we were contacted by five companies looking to move forward with this project. The population of those 65 and over will dramatically increase in the next five to 10 years.”

He pointed to how the occupancy rates of nursing homes, assisted care and independent living facilities within a 10-mile radius of Royal Palm Beach are almost at maximum capacity.

“They’re all quite full,” he said.

In Royal Palm Beach, 11.8 percent of the population is older than 65, according to the study.

Gonot also suggested the village consider the 45- to 65-year-old age group, since many people in that age range have parents who might need to move into a senior housing center.

If a center is built, Gonot recommended the village build an independent living facility that could eventually be used as an assisted living and skilled nursing home.

There has been some discussion about building a facility that would be restricted to village residents only. Gonot said that wouldn’t be a good idea.

“Royal Palm Beach residents alone can’t support such a facility,” he said. “That would limit the operator and it may not be successful. Wherever they come from, once they move here, they’re residents of Royal Palm Beach.”

Gonot said the village should hire a company to run and operate the facility, with the village just overseeing it.

“I don’t think the village wants to be in the business of running a senior housing facility,” Gonot said.

Vice Mayor David Swift said building the center is “doable” and that it’s time for the village to move forward.

“This has been going on forever,” he said. “I could pass away (before a center is built.)”

But Councilman Fred Pinto said Gonot didn’t make a strong enough case for why the village should build a facility. He suggested staff conduct more research before the village considers drafting a bid proposal.

“There’s no compelling business case that tells us we need to do this,” Pinto said.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said staff can bring the council a draft proposal to get official direction on how the village should proceed.

“Our goal is to get something in the village that doesn’t exist today,” Liggins said. “We can test the market and see how it responds.”

Gonot said the village has plenty of time to work out the details.

“If you don’t like the proposals you get, you don’t have to move forward,” he said.

Terry Thowdis, a resident who has lived in Royal Palm Beach for 27 years, encouraged ofificals to move sooner rather than later.

“We can’t wait five years to begin the process,” the 85-year-0ld Thowdis said. “We need to start it now.”

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