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Brazil-based Copacabana Properties is ready to move forward on a three-story, 80,000-square-foot assisted living facility in St. Cloud.

The developer purchased the 3.15-acre site on 17th Street in August 2015 for $1 million and retained FEG President Sam Sebaali to assist with permitting and engineering. The site is zoned for commercial development, but St. Cloud requires a Conditional Use (CU) permit for all assisted living facilities (ALF) regardless of zoning.

The St. Cloud City Council voted last week to extend the CU for six months after Sebaali filed a Site Development Plan with the city. It’s slated to go to the Development Review Committee in April.

“The city has been working well with us,” Sebaali said. “They want to see it happen. It’s close to the hospital there, so it’s a good location.”

The back view of Copacabana Assisted Living Facility features a large patio courtyard.
The back view of Copacabana Assisted Living Facility features a large patio courtyard.

The $20 million project comprises 127 units (including 25 two-bedroom units). The U-shaped building frames a large, courtyard patio. A large fountain and circular pavered driveway highlight the main entrance, while the grounds feature a gazebo and shuffle board court.

“I’m thinking we can finish permitting sometime in July,” Sebaali said. “The architect is finalizing plan to submit for building permits.”

Rabits & Romano Architecture has designed three ALFs in the last three years. Partner Fulvio Romano, a native of Brazil, specializes in design of ALFs and took the lead on the Copacabana project.

Romano said this is Copacabana Group’s first U.S. venture, but the company has extensive experience with investment and construction in Brazil.

“They are made up of mostly professionals — doctors and attorneys who understand the need for this product,” Romana told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. The company is finalizing contract negotiations with an ALF operator, which will make the final selection for general contractor.

Romano said his goal for the Copacabana was to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The facility will have its own beauty salon, theater and game room.

“We want it to be homey and comfortable,” he said. “We have found out that large, open spaces end up being intimidating and are not used. In our projects we create little niches where small groups can gather, so they enhance community life.”

The dining room will offer a daily buffet as well as sit-down, restaurant-style menu. “We have a 365-day kitchen, which means you don’t have to repeat your meal the whole year,” he said.

The ALF concept is still new in much of the world, and Romano is in Brazil this week making presentations to officials in three cities about the need for ALFs for their aging populations.

“The US is about 10 years ahead of other countries in the world in this type of product,” Romano said. “It seems to go from almost no care to nursing home. There’s not the level of care in between.”

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