Independent and Assisted Living in Downtown Boca Raton

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Coming before the Community Redevelopment Agency on July 23rd is an upscale, independent senior living facility project called The Concierge Living Facility. If approved, the project will be located at 22 SE 6th Street, in the downtown area just a few blocks south of Palmetto Park Road, between Dixie and Federal Highway. The building will contain 110 units with 129 beds, and of those units, about half are reserved for independent living while the other half are reserved for assisted living and a memory care unit. To date, the project has garnered approval from City Staff (and their external consultants), the Community Appearance Board (7-0), and the Planning and Zoning Board (5-2). However, some concerns were raised at the P&Z meeting by a few of the board members and one local resident. Taking a “pro/con” approach to the project, below is an outline of some of the main concerns and/or contributions associated with the project using information gathered from the P&Z meeting, local resident Mr. Bruce Diller Verstandig, Group P6 (the developer) and Charter Senior Living (the operator). We invite the community to voice their opinion on the project.

Social Considerations

Health and Demographics: America’s population is aging and Boca is no exception. Census estimates suggest that the number of Americans 65 years or older is expected to nearly double over the next three decades, suggesting that facilities like the Concierge are increasingly going to become a social need. Further, demand aside, facilities like this are important in combating social isolation, which is directly associated with health outcomes, longevity, and quality of life. Social relationships such as family and friends, which can become more elusive with age, give life meaning and purpose. Further, having facilities like these in the community allows for the maintenance of intergenerational bonds, and the facility’s proximity to the downtown area allows those in independent living, and visitors, a nearby location to engage with.

Negative Secondary Effects: It is unlikely this project would result in issues such as drugs, crime, declining property values, or other social ills that fall under the NSE rubric. There is no residential immediately adjacent to the property, and rooftop entertainment was designed so that any sound or light pollution that does exist projects only in the direction of commercial areas.

Environmental Sustainability: The building meets the city’s requirement to have at least 40% open space on the property. Further, the building will have some type of green certification.

Social Responsibility: The developer, the landowner, and the operator are all invested in the success of the project. The developer and landowner live in and have raised/are raising their families right here in Boca Raton. The developer is also a member of the 2020 Vision, a Boca non-profit composed of a large cross-section of the community working to develop the Wildflower and Silver Palm Parks based on a public referendum. Although not from Boca, Kevin Benema, CEO of Charter Senior Living, has over 20 years industry experience and wants to maintain the reputation that has allowed them to grow to well over a dozen facilities.

Economic Considerations

Taxes and Schools: How much tax revenue could this project potentially produce? The city report presented to the P&Z Board suggested the number was only $100,000, which some were concerned might not be enough to cover the costs the project produces. However, data suggest this number is likely inaccurate. For example, tax records show that in 2017 the property owner paid $ 49,065 in taxes despite having only 8,000 sq. ft. currently built on the site. Given that the proposed project is well over 100,000 sq. ft., the tax revenue will necessarily be many multiples. The developer estimates the project will be assessed in the range of +/- $50MM. To play devil’s advocate, even if we cut that number in half, the project would still produce nearly $500K in yearly taxes, ~$175,000 of which would go directly to education and schools without adding a single student to local rosters.

Job Creation and Economic Stimulus: The facility itself will require at least a dozen employees, and it will likely draw a number of other professionals and services for things like medical, retail, and food. Given its downtown location, residents of the facility, especially those in independent living, are likely to engage in local activities and support local businesses. Additionally, it seems logical that those visiting facility residents would also contribute to local commerce. However, it is important to note that the P&Z Board expressed concern that the Boca facility might have too few employees, citing the extent of its services and high resident expectations. In response, the operator, speaking from his experience, pointed out that suggested staffing levels are industry standard and typical for a high-end facility of this type.

Emergency Medical Services: How much would adding this facility burden emergency medical services? Data reported by the city and Fire Rescue Services suggest that such facilities can generate up to 15 times as many calls for service than the average home. However, supporters of the project make a series of claims that, if true, would cast immediate doubt on the number just quoted. For example, the facility operator and data from the American Senior Housing Association argue that the vast majority of residents moving into such a facility already come from the same community. Thus, the project would not necessarily increase call rates but perhaps concentrate them. Further, having staff on the premises should reduce the number of calls – or deaths – that might have occurred otherwise. The city’s presentation seemed to suggest that the facility could require the city to add additional services at the cost of around $2 Million per year, but notably, the developer has since met with the Boca Raton Fire Department and confirmed they have adequate capacity as is.

Traffic and Parking: In regard to traffic, the project would be in a particularly low volume area and is expected to add 163 trips per day – much lower than comparable residential or commercial, which the property is currently zoned for. However, parking was perhaps the biggest concern expressed by the P&Z Board. Although the operator has included lease conditions that would prevent more than 40 resident spots, some board members questioned whether or not there is enough left over for visitors, staff, and doctors, who might have shifts with small overlaps. The operator contends, based on industry standards and experience, that the facility has more spots than most comparable projects. In addition to the facility providing multiple forms of transit, the operator claims that only about half of eligible residents bring cars anyways. Further, they note that in addition to limiting visitation from 7am-6pm, the days most likely to have high volume, such as Christmas, tend to be occasions when surrounding businesses would be closed.

Development: One of the concerns raised by local resident Mr. Diller Verstandig was whether or not the “land-swap” necessary for the project would constrain the ability of other landowners to build what they were originally zoned for and allowed to. However, my understanding is that, fortunately, this is basically a zero-sum game, which is to say that although the downtown area is allotted a fixed amount of certain properties by zone, zones can continue to trade with each other until some eventual point in the future when the entire downtown area runs out (at which point the city can decide to add more).

Mr. Diller Verstandig recognizes his phrasing is extreme, but argues that this project brings “death to downtown” because in addition to the economic concerns discussed above, the project does nothing to increase downtown vitality in the way that a comparable residential or commercial building might. At the other end of the spectrum, one might argue that, indeed, this is resident friendly, because in addition to the social value, this is a much better alternative to housing that will contribute to overdevelopment and further burden our schools, or offices, which arguably already overpopulate the area. As stated at the beginning, we invite the community to voice their support, concerns, or comments about the project here, and look forward to your input.

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Eric Sevell was born, raised, and currently resides in Boca Raton. He is currently finishing his PhDs in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Indiana University (IU). Eric has published on topics ranging from political attitudes to community and crime, and has taught Criminology and Deviant Behavior classes in person and online as an Associate Instructor for IU. He has a commitment to social justice and is interested in seeing Boca become a more equitable and inclusive place. In addition to his own engagement with local politics here, he is also a member of the 2020 Vision, a Boca Raton based non-profit working to develop the Wildflower and Silver Palm Parks alongside the city.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I would have to disagree. The problem with Boca and the reason why it’s not the downtown like Delray and Ft.Lauderdale which both are way ahead with progressive night life, vitality, and a variety of cutting edge shops is that Boca caters to elderly snow birds and wealth. You just have to go to one of those cities to see the the energy on a weekend and a younger vibe over all. Boca has definitely improved on bringing that urban feel but adding a ALF will not. And yes it will add more call volume and possible strain to Fire Rescue. When you have a facility with over a 100 plus people between the ages of 65-100 with nurse aids it will undoubtedly bring more call volume.

  2. In an old codgers voice:

    “Well, thanks for your comment sonny. For those of us who’ve lived here 35 years and paid over $400,000 in property and school taxes that put you through 12 years of school, we appreciate your input, yup, we sure do. God forbid those of us who cherish our city should want to live our life out here in Boca. Nah, we belong in a closet some place away from you and your want’in ta party.

    Personally, I love the downtown, the excitement of the pub crawl on St. Paddy’s Day – “Hey beer tender, another Sam Adams.” The mix and mingle of young people keeps me young even when I use my walker. Believe it or not, I remember being in high school, college, the military, working for a corporation, building three homes in the area, tending my yard, mowing the grass, getting involved in city politics which, in your mind, seems to have earned me a trip to the farm. Thank you so much Jeffy. I am truly sorry I might mess up your idea of a good time.”

    So, Jeff, pretty soon it will be you, pal. You will be getting in the way, because of that football injury or inevitable old age that gets in the way of a 20 something headed to the boys room to off load an over consumption of beer. Think of life with us old folks as your being part of a family, a community made up of all ages who share a love for their city and even for those 20 somethings who think we are stupid and a waste of time.

    FYI – It’s all based on economics. If you or someone wants to build a club with music, lights and all the things we enjoyed at your age – built it, man!!!! Go for it. See if it will go, you have every right to have fun in Boca without putting your self at risk driving to Ft. Lauderdale. Hey, I have fallen out of a bar or two in my 3/4’s of a century. And, I hope you will not be offended if you do build a place like you want and I choose to frequent it just to enjoying being around you and your friends. You are our future, just don’t _ _ _ _ it up. Oh, that was mess it up.

  3. As some one around the same age as James, I might look to live in a place like that being proposed some time in the future. This sounds like a good project but I am not sure that this is a fitting site. If the property is solely on the site of 22 Se 6 St it seems rather small for this ambitious project. I can’t see there being enough parking. This is a big problem at some other existing projects. Don’t give us another one. I’m also wondering why the visiting hours are limited to ending at 6pm. So say I live there, want to go out for dinner at 6pm with friends. So one friend arrives a little late. Is she turned away? What if they want to come back after dinner to visit some more? Maybe this project just needs some tuning.

  4. I listened to the meeting online and was shocked to hear the council people say that the elderly do not belong in the downtown. Basically telling them to go elsewhere, we want a younger crowd. This was completely discriminate against the elderly and was a sad day for Boca senior citizens.

    If the property is zoned for this use, which they said it is, they simply don’t get to decide but they did. Uh oh Boca!

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