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Seniors Housing Beat

Ritzy Lenbrook Square to get lavish makeover Atlanta-based Lenbrook Square Foundation Inc. has plans for a $100 million, five-year expansion of Lenbrook Square, an upscale 18-story, 700,000 sq. ft. continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood. The project, which will add approximately 800,000 sq. ft. to the community, includes renovations of the existing tower and the construction of a new building, the design of which has yet to be finalized. However, Thomas Hamall, chairman of Lenbrook Square Foundation Inc., predicts the new tower will be 14 or 15 stories and have as many as 130 apartments. Atlanta-based Thompson, Hancock & Witte is the designer of the expansion.

The new apartments will range in size from 1,500 sq. ft. to 2,500 sq. ft. Monthly fees for the new units will begin around $2,500 per month, while entrance fees will range from $300,000 to $700,000. Lenbrook refunds 70% of the entrance fees to the resident or the resident's family when the resident leaves the facility. The project will also include the addition of such amenities as an indoor pool and a memory enhancement program.

In other Atlanta seniors housing news, WMF/Huntoon, Paige Associates Ltd., based in Edison, N.J., has closed a $3.2 million loan for the construction of the 45-bed Summerset Assisted Living Facility in Atlanta. The 35,700 sq. ft. community is designed to handle the needs of Alzheimer's patients. The loan carries an interest rate of 8.65% during the construction period and then converts to an 8.45% permanent loan. The loan will fully amortize over a 40-year term. The financing was provided under the guidelines of the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) Section 232 New Construction Program. Robert J. Jones of WMF/Huntoon handled the loan.

Wilder Balter Partners is in a New York state of mind Westchester, N.Y.-based Wilder Balter Partners LLC has begun construction on two new seniors housing communities in New York state: Stone Hill Apartments, a 104-unit complex in Washingtonville; and Heritage Pointe Apartments, an 82-unit complex in Hyde Park. Both communities were financed in part through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program; both also received a New York State Housing Trust Fund Loan.

Completion of the $12 million Stone Hill is slated for this fall, while the facility's leasing office will open in August. The community will feature 92 one-bedroom units, which will average 800 sq. ft. in size, and 12 two-bedroom units, which will average 1,000 sq. ft. in size. The one-bedroom apartments will lease for $457 per month, while the two-bedroom apartments will lease for $544 per month. Amenities will include on-site laundry facilities and a library/card room.

The $9.5 million Heritage Pointe is an adaptive reuse project, as an abandoned nursing home is being converted into the facility. Completion of the project is slated for February 2001. The complex will feature 62 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units. Rents will range from $422 per month to $568 per month. Amenities will include a community room and a courtyard.

NIC attempts to reunite seniors housing and capital Annapolis, Md.-based National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industries (NIC) will hold its 10th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 13-15. The convention's theme is "Into the Next Decade: Reconnecting Capital with Seniors Housing & Care." About 1,200 industry members are expected to attend.

The plenary luncheon on Sept. 15 will feature guest speaker Alan K. Simpson, director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a former three-term Republican U.S. Senator from Wyoming. Breakout sessions will cover such topics as feasibility studies, exit strategies and protecting a seniors housing investment from fraud, abuse and litigation.

Seniors find helping hand in City of Broad Shoulders Chicago-based Senior Lifestyle Corp. has opened Kingsley Place at Lincoln Square, an assisted living community in Chicago that can accommodate 81 residents, including 12 in its Special Care Suites. The suites are designed to provide specialized care for seniors suffering from memory impairments.

Kingsley Place provides assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, medicinal administration and feeding. The special care suites feature 24-hour assistance.

Let's get ready to 'rompus' at Cedar Creek in Florida Crystal River, Fla.-based Mott-Westfall Medical Management has begun construction of Cedar Creek at King's Bay, a 60-unit assisted living facility in Crystal River. Completion of the project is slated for January 2001. Orlando, Fla.-based Morris Architects designed the community.

The two-story, 48,000 sq. ft. community will offer four types of units: double occupancy semi-private, single occupancy semi-private, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. Amenities will include a therapy room, spa, library and a balcony overlooking a freshwater stream. Cedar Creek will also have a "Rompus Room," built for interaction between residents and visitors with young children.

PW Funding aids refinancing of affordable Michigan units Mineola, N.Y.-based PW Funding Inc. has provided a $3.9 million mortgage refinancing loan to Meadows of Southgate II Apartments, a 117-unit affordable apartment complex for seniors in Southgate, Mich. Washington, D.C.-based Fannie Mae's Delegated Underwriting and Servicing (DUS) Program funded the transaction. The 18-year loan carries a 9.06% interest rate amortized over 30 years. The loan to value of the deal is 82%.

The three-story complex, which was 98% occupied at the loan's closing, features one- and two-bedroom units. Completed in 1998, the community has an exercise room, beauty salon, library and three laundry rooms.

Nearly $5.6 million of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) were used to build the facility.

Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learnin' how The phrases "senior citizens" and "surfing the Internet" are not often thought of as being closely related. But LaConner New Media, based in LaConner, Wash., is trying to change that with a two-pronged approach.

First, the company has developed the Web site. Seniors who visit the site can obtain information about health and Social Security issues, order prescriptions, obtain legal advice, make travel arrangements, participate in senior citizen chat rooms, and play board and word games.The site receives approximately 10,000 new visitors a week, according to LaConner.

However, "that's just half of the fun," says Donna Mueller, director of sales for LaConner. "The other half is encouraging seniors about the Web and bringing them aboard the Internet."

When it comes to Internet usage, senior citizens are undoubtedly among the most disenfranchised segments of society, says Nick Pappas, director of portal development for LaConner.

According to LaConner, 2.5 out of every 10 seniors owns a computer, and only one out of 10 uses the Internet.

Therefore, as part of a pilot program, LaConner has installed "set-top boxes" - devices about the size of a VCR that allow a television screen to serve as a computer monitor - in approximately 40 seniors housing communities in nine states.

The devices, which Mueller and Pappas say are easier to work than a standard computer and draw upon a person's knowledge of how to operate a television, have been put in each residential unit of the communities, meaning about 2,200 residents have access to them.

Some of the seniors housing companies participating in the program are Seattle-based Northwest Retirement Communities, Seattle-based Merrill Gardens and The Fountains, based in Tucson, Ariz. By the end of the third quarter of this year, all of the participating companies will have made a decision about whether to keep the computers on a permanent basis.

After installing the computers, LaConner conducts a one-day training class, and the seniors housing communities then form an Internet user group that meets twice a week. At the meetings, the residents undertake lessons designed to further improve their understanding of how the Internet works.

Mueller and Pappas argue that the presence of the Internet in a seniors housing facility provides benefits to owners, managers and residents. For the residents, there is the opportunity to expand their horizons. For example, they can take a virtual tour of some exotic international locale, says Pappas.

"As they age, seniors undergo a series of losses," says Mueller. "Their lives are becoming narrower and narrower, unless they actively do something to expand it."

For owners and managers, the presence of the Internet can be a helpful marketing tool, says Pappas. Often, it is the children of seniors who are conducting the search for a community for their parents.

When they see that a community is providing instruction on how to use an e-mail system and is providing a means to send e-mail, and thereby stay in touch with family members, that is a plus, adds Pappas.

The emergence of the Internet in seniors housing communities is an exciting development - one that should allow the industry to better serve and satisfy its residents.

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