UPDATED: NOVEMBER 30, 2016 5:03 PM — Orlando-based Certus Senior Living should break ground in January on the first of four $13 million Alzheimer's-focused senior care facilities in Central Florida it plans to start building in the first half of 2017, and will seek a lender for a fifth site later in the year, the company's CEO told GrowthSpotter.
Founded in 1999 as a precursor to what is now Certus, the company built a portfolio of 10 independent and assisted living communities totaling 1,500 units in Texas and Florida.
The property operator became a developer out of necessity during that time, and sold the portfolio in early 2008 just before the recession took hold.
Certus went into hibernation for a few years, but as capital markets began to recover it saw that some of the earliest projects drawing lender support were need-based developments like assisted living.
"We decided not to compete in a mature market of independent and assisted living, and instead focused on the under-served niche of Alzheimer's care," said CEO Glen Pawlowski. "Most properties offering Alzheimer's care now are shared service facilities, but in talking to customers we've found they don't think the level of staff expertise there is always the best for Alzheimer's."
Certus honed in on creating purpose-built communities specifically for Alzheimer's care, with a building design that reflects the calm environmental needs of residents with the disease. Staff will be fully trained and certified in dementia and Alzheimer's care.
The company spent the past two years developing its prototype building of 64 units split into two 32-unit wings, with 43,000 square feet overall. Private studio apartments will range in size from 275-335 square feet, and each property will have two distinct dining and lounge areas with the wings connected by a central "town center" that's covered, "but gives residents the feeling of being outdoors," Pawlowski said.
Certus' first four projects in Central Florida are set to break ground in the first half of 2017. Construction on the first should start in January in Orange City.
That will be followed by construction in Waterford Lakes some time in the first quarter, at a 5-acre site on Lake Underhill Drive. The developer is now going through site plan approval with Orange County and responding to planning staff comments, Pawlowski said.
The third site in Mount Dora, off U.S. 441 east of the intersection with U.S. 19, is under contract with a hard deposit and set to close in January, he said. The company expects to submit a site plan to the city on Dec. 5.
The fourth site in Longwood, with multiple parcels assembled on E.E. Williamson Road near the I-4 intersection, is under contract with active efforts to clean up title over the next few months, Pawlowksi said. The developer has submitted for Planned Development approval with Seminole County and received comments back from staff, he added.
Mount Dora and Longwood are projected to break ground in Q2 2017. Certus is also negotiating between three sites on Florida's east coast, from which Pawlowski expects to buy one and break ground in late 2017.
Each new development will cost roughly $7.5 million for hard construction costs, and total $13 million with soft costs to bring properties to stabilization after opening, Pawlowski said.
Equity supplied by Certus Senior Living principals will cover 35 percent of each new facility, with the balance sought from conventional lenders via construction loans, he said.
The first four project have full funding commitments, with construction loan agreements made with two lenders that have yet to close, Pawlowski said. The company will be considering lenders soon for the future east coast property, he added.
Architect on the building prototype was Bessolo Design Group out of St. Petersburg, which specializes in senior housing and memory care facilities.