Massive $500 Million Senior Living Development Planned in N.C.

A group of investors and real estate developers are planning a massive master-planned senior living community in North Carolina that is expected to exceed $500 million in development costs and will encompass more than 2,000 acres. 

Plans for The Charles, in Oak Island, N.C., include up to 2,000 units of single- and multi-family residences spanning cottages, condos, and town homes located in a mixed-use development spearheaded by Legacy Community Partners and funded with private equity. 

Another approximately 250 units will be designated for assisted living care, memory care, and skilled nursing, all located on a 2,100-acre site in Brunswick County. 


Additional features for the community, announced this week, include integrated family and senior medicine, occupational and physical therapists, in-home care, and medical equipment providers along with standard senior living community features such as on-campus dining and wellness facilities. 

The massive community will have three primary uses: healthcare, senior living, and retail/office mixed-use buildings, says Robert Duffy, part of Legacy Community Partners and former general manager of golf and active adult retirement community St. James Plantation. The healthcare, retail, and mixed-use components of the development won’t be gated.

“People who live in the senior living portion will have access to [those] as an amenity, but it will be open to the public,” Duffy told SHN. The Charles, which is targeting the region’s large—and growing—55+ demographic will not operate under an entrance fee model; rather, residents will be able to choose between renting or leasing the independent living units, which will start at about $250,000. 


In addition to Duffy, the Legacy team includes information technology entrepreneur Chris Maynor and healthcare and senior care consultant and developer Gene Vaughan, who has extensive background in senior living development.

Duffy met Vaughan several years ago when he was looking into senior living development options in his capacity as general manager of St. James Plantation. Although nothing was pursued at the time, Duffy says when he came across the land now slated for The Charles, he knew it held more opportunity than just housing development or any one use. 

“Considering the location and market opportunities, we knew immediately that healthcare was definitely a need, and there was a lot of pent up demand,” he says. “The senior care component was huge.”

With his background in retirement community management, Duffy says he often encountered situations where a community didn’t offer the full span of care, so residents needing healthcare had to leave, in many cases permanently. 

“[The Charles] will be a seamless community,” he says of the living and care options that will be available throughout the continuum.

The development and ownership team paid cash to acquire most of the site for The Charles in February 2014, so there’s no public debt on the property, says Duffy. The project’s impact on the tax base will exceed $700 million, he says, with actual construction and development costs upwards of $500 million. Development funding is all coming from private equity sources.

The project already has received zoning and site plan approvals from Oak Island and the team expects to have the first healthcare building open in the next 18 months, followed by the senior living components, then retail and mixed-use along with other community amenities and recreational facilities.

The massive independent living units will take several years to completely develop, Duffy projects, as it will likely take several years to go through absorption.

“It’s a long-term project and opportunity,” he says. “In the last year, it’s been a very focused effort of mine. I’m not working on anything specific other than putting together a business plan. We found the right equity partner rather quickly, closed on the property rather quickly, and started right after we closed.”

The development’s business plan didn’t get traction until after the land acquisition closed in February, he adds. “It’s been a whole lot of preparation for many, many years, and now we’re hitting the ground fast,” Duffy says. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

Companies featured in this article: