A growing number of colleges are building senior housing near their campuses. Now, one New York school is going a step further, building a community on its campus.
Purchase College — part of the State University of New York system (SUNY) — recently announced plans for Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College. The Purchase, New York-based college will partner with Des Moines, Iowa-based Life Care Services (LCS) and Senior Care Services on the $320 million, 220-unit independent living community.
The community is one of the final moves for Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz, who is retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year and will remain involved in Broadview’s development after he retires.
A development over 10 years in the making
Shortly after Schwarz became Purchase College president in 2002, he was tasked to look at the college’s land for ways to support the school’s mission through developing unused parcels, Schwarz told Senior Housing News. Purchase College established a committee of academic and real estate experts to explore its development options.
Several proposals were studied including building a conference center and hotel, and building faculty housing on site. Senior housing quickly emerged as a top candidate, in large part because Purchase College has a lot of seniors living in the area who audit courses on campus.
“We talked to undergrads about their experiences taking classes with seniors, and found they were fairly positive,” Schwarz said. “One student was studying World War II and told us there was a man in his class who fought in it.”
The committee designated 40 acres in the heart of the campus for the project. Because the land for the site is owned by the SUNY system, the project needed approval from the New York State Assembly. Legislation allowing Purchase College to lease the site was approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011. The initial terms called for a 40-year lease. The legislation was amended in 2015 to allow a 50-year lease.
The rent being paid by LCS and SCD will be part of a “return of capital” plan to further Purchase College’s mission. Seventy-five percent of the rent will be used to fund scholarships, while the other 25% will be used to hire faculty.
Finding the right development partner
Once the state approved leasing the land, Purchase College established a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Purchase College Advancement Corp., to handle all matters related to the development, and announced a request for proposals (RFP) process to find a lead developer for the project.
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LCS was one of four finalists called to present their bids to the college, Schwarz said. LCS was the third-largest senior living provider in the nation, according to 2018 rankings from industry association Argentum, and the company is making a push to expand its portfolio of rental properties. The firm eventually won the bid in 2015 because it partnered with Harrison, New York-based Senior Care Development (SCD) as the local development partner.
The campus size, enrollment and location were the main attractions for LCS, Senior Project Development Manager Todd Shaw told SHN. The site is a stone’s throw from the school’s administration building and walking distance from a dormitory. Purchase College is also in the heart of Westchester County, New York, one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S. and underserved by independent living.
“[Purchase College] is a fairly young school,” he said.
“LCS knew SCD would have an advantage in understanding the Westchester County market,” Schwarz said. “This allowed LCS to be both the operator for the community and a consultant in the development.”
Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College will include 174 one- and two-bedroom apartments with underground parking, along with 46 two-bedroom townhomes with two-car garages. Under the terms of the legislation approved by the State Assembly, 20% — 44 apartments — will be set aside for affordable housing for tenants who make 80% of the area median income (AMI). Fifty percent of the affordable allotment will be made available to Westchester County residents who meet the AMI requirements.
“Westchester County is underserved by affordable senior housing,” Shaw said. “It’s something we feel is important for the project.”
An extensive intergenerational component
Broadview Senior Living at Purchase College will include extensive programming connecting residents with Purchase College faculty and students. A public area, dubbed the Learning Commons, will be available for use by all parties and contain programming by the school including arts, dances, theatrical performances and other activities, Schwarz said. This will fit in with Purchase College’s mission as a liberal arts school.
The school also plans to offer short courses for seniors looking to continue their education.
“Our analysis indicates not a lot of seniors want to be committed to longer courses,” he said.
The development team will market the housing to retired or retiring faculty, as well as older Purchase College graduates.
“The first Purchase College alumni are just beginning to discuss moving into senior housing,” Shaw said. “The faculty base is a larger group to [target].”
Broadview’s affordable housing component is tailor-made for the Purchase College family, Schwarz said.
“It allows us to market directly to alumni and faculty,” Schwarz said.
Colleges developing senior housing is a growing trend. Rome, Georgia-based Berry College announced plans last October for The Spires at Berry College, a $130 million life plan community near its campus. The University of Florida and University of California, San Diego have plans for building senior housing near their campuses. And Lasell Village, affiliated with Lasell College in Massachusetts, is another example of a senior living community that is located on a college campus.
Want to learn more about university partnerships in senior living? Click here to access Senior Housing News’ deep-dive report on the topic.