Big Rock, Ventas Partner on $100 Million Development

Big Rock Partners, a real estate investment firm, recently announced it will break ground on a new senior living community in southern Palm Beach County, Florida, after securing a $68.2 million construction loan from Wells Fargo. The project is noteworthy for the involvement of Ventas Inc. (NYSE: VTR) as an equity partner, and as one of the first senior living projects for Gensler Architects, a global architecture firm that has been chosen as the designer, Black Rock Chairman and Senior Managing Principal Richard Ackerman tells Senior Housing News.

Total financing, including the construction loan provided by Wells Fargo, reaches over $100 million, Ackerman says. As an equity partner, Ventas will be principal owner of the Florida development through a RIDEA structure, according to Ackerman.

The community, Atria at Villages of Windsor, will span a 22.5-acre development site near Lake Worth and consist of 318 units. In a Spanish Mission style, the community is designed to hold 186 independent living apartments and 78 assisted living apartment residences in a main building that will be one to three stories high with four wings around a central lobby and amenity core. A separate memory care building will hold 54 memory care residences and gardens, according to a statement from Big Rock Partners.

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“This is an exciting project that enables us to invest in a luxury seniors housing development in Palm Beach county with superior market characteristics,” John Cobb, executive vice president and chief investment officer at Ventas, tells SHN.

The community will be operated by Atria Senior Living, a senior living provider with more than 180 communities in 28 states and Canada. Ackerman touted the brand recognition of Atria and its association with a high quality of care.

“With Big Rock leading the development and Atria as our operating partner, we are confident that this new community will be positioned for success,” Cobb tells SHN.

Ackerman says he sees opportunities for REITs like Ventas to move do more equity partnerships in new developments.

“Traditionally, the health care REITs have done most of the development deals with preferred equity with an option to buy,” Ackerman explains.

Ackerman says Gensler’s entry into senior living reflects Big Rock’s approach to the development and desire to bring fresh ideas into the market, noting that the firm has no “preconceived notion” of the space.

“Big Rock Partners has made it their mission to create welcoming environments that encourage residents to be active and fully engaged in their communities, within and beyond the development’s boundaries,” Michael Darner, Gensler project manager, said in a statement.

Ackerman hopes to create a new environment to attract baby boomers at a younger age.

“We shouldn’t hide our seniors,” Ackerman says. “Most senior buildings being built today are behind the Burger Kings of the world. It’s relegated our property class a third-rate citizen. What we’re trying to do is change that perception of the customer or the tenant, and hopefully people will come into [the community] earlier as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need.’ We’re trying to create a new paradigm of an environment where people want to move in.”

The community is one of two major developments in the works for Big Rock Partners. Ackerman says a second 240-unit community in Celebration, Florida, is on the books with a $77 million development cost. Capital One is the proposed lender. Life Care Services, a Des Moines, Iowa-based national manager of continuing care retirement communities, will manage the Celebration property, which Ackerman expects to break ground January 1.

Written by Amy Baxter

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