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News Clips 01/24/2014
UCF aims to build retirement community near campus
Source: Orlando Sentinel, 01/23/14
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By Mary Shanklin
UCF is planning a retirement community near campus that will allow residents to recapture a bit of their college years, with access to classes, athletic events and the arts.
The school and its foundation this month acquired 59 acres about a mile from campus in southeast Seminole County for $6 million, with plans for a development offering independent living, assisted living and memory-care housing for Alzheimer's patients.
Robert Holmes, chief executive of the foundation, said the purchase of the property along Old Lockwood Road was a "significant step" toward realizing an idea discussed for more than eight years.
"The project is great in its concept," Holmes said. "But a project isn't a project until you've got the land. It took a while to locate a piece of land, and then it took time to work with the sellers to come to an agreement."
As planned, construction would start within three years on a community that eventually would have about 500 residents in independent-living villas, assisted-living condominiums and memory-care units.
Modeled after Oak Hammock near the University of Florida in Gainesville, the development is aimed at UCF alumni and others seeking a college environment. Residents would have access to university classes, lectures, athletic events, the library and performing-arts events. About half of Oak Hammock residents are UF alumni, and the rest were drawn to living in a college town.
The foundation is studying examples across the country to determine the best options for partnerships with schools.
"Our concept here is to have the university at their fingertips," Holmes said. "And with that, the university would treat them as VIPs so they could come onto campus and feel as though they are a part of things."
In addition, UCF students studying everything from physical therapy to business management could do internships there, he added.
The "Continuing Care Retirement Community" concept has been popular near university campuses in recent decades and reflects the maturation of UCF, whose early graduates are reaching retirement age. Holmes estimated that residents in the proposed community would be an average of 70 years old. Since its founding in 1963, UCF has grown to have a student body of about 60,000 — one of the largest in the country.
Nationally, an estimated 745,000 residents live in continuing-care communities, which offer advancing levels of care as people age. Typically, residents sell their homes to cover an "entry fee" and pay additional monthly charges.
UCF has not set rates for its proposed development, but a 2010 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office surveyed eight communities and found the price of admission ranged from $160,000 to $600,000 per person and that monthly charges ranged from $2,500 for independent-living arrangements to as much as $5,400 for nursing care.
The community care industry has softened in recent years as the real estate market crashed and prospective residents were unable to sell their homes without discounting them. At Oak Hammock, for instance, occupancy hit a low of 94 percent in 2007 but climbed back to 97 percent last year, said John Corbin, principal for Praxeis, which developed Oak Hammock.
"We're seeing these kinds of deals picking up as the real estate market picks up and there is less need for discounted entry fees," Corbin said. "There have not been as many done in recent years because the industry as a whole has suffered."
Oak Hammock has 267 residential units, plus memory care and skilled nursing services. It took about two years of marketing to pre-lease 70 percent of the units so that construction could begin, Corbin added.
"We think the affiliation with a major university is a very attractive concept for the retiree," Corbin said. "The benefits are that a major university can bring to a project like Oak Hammock, or the one at UCF, are significant."
Before plans for the UCF project can proceed, Seminole County must approve the development. Even though neighborhoods near the campus have long objected to the school's encroachment into their space, Holmes said he didn't anticipate major hurdles because the senior-living project will have minimal impact on public schools or transportation.
Holmes said the foundation will eventually sell the property to the nonprofit group CCRC Development Corp. It's headed by longtime Orlando lawyer John Lowndes, who was not available for comment Thursday. Although Holmes said UCF will have no financial stake in the project, the development group is managed by Scott Cole, who is the primary attorney for UCF.
Holmes, who also oversees fundraising for the foundation, said the project dovetails with the foundation's philanthropic mission and could help it foster ties with existing donors and create relationships with new ones.
"Those people may develop philanthropic ties to the university," he said. "That's happened in the past with these communities."