BONITA SPRINGS — The outlook is sunny for the retirement lifestyle in Southwest Florida, with a new senior community under construction in Bonita Springs and a longtime complex in Naples expanding.
The $70 million Terraces at Bonita Springs continuing care retirement community has reached its halfway mark in construction, employing up to 300 workers. The six-story building on U.S. 41, north of Bonita Beach Road, is scheduled to open in summer 2013.
The Moorings Park retirement community off Goodlette-Frank Road is in the middle of a $63.4 million expansion, with 180 workers on site.
Continuing care retirement communities are marketed as life-care agreements, not as a real estate transaction. They require an entrance fee ranging from $200,000 to $2 million, depending on the independent living option selected and other services. There also is a monthly fee. Residents must be in relatively good health to move in.
When their health starts to decline, the contract includes medical and living assistance. Later, the residents move into skilled nursing when needed. The concept is that residents live out their lives in the community with their health and needs addressed. That avoids burdening their families.
Officials at Terraces at Bonita Springs and Moorings Park, which offer independent living apartments, assisted living services and skilled nursing, say the market is strong and amenities are geared toward what retirees want today. A big part of that is being physically active, along with participating in wellness programs.
Steve Brinkert, vice president of residential services at Moorings Park, agreed that today's retirees are more focused on wellness — so programs for the mind, spirit and body are essential.
"As the demographic changes, as people move into retirement communities, they want choices," Brinkert said.
In addition, seniors today want more contract options with full-range retirement communities to take into consideration their offspring, leaving assets to them and refunds.
"It is less a function of the economic environment and more a function of a sophisticated buyer," said Troy Hart, president of SanteFe Senior Living, which is building the nonprofit retirement community at 26401 U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) released a report in 2010 that pointed out potential perils of continuing care retirement communities when retirees pay a substantial entrance fee, often the proceeds from the sale of their home, and what could happen if the community becomes financially vulnerable.
The GAO examined disclosure laws in eight states, including Florida's. The analysis found that Florida requires disclosure of financial condition, fee adjustments, reserve funding and provides for refunds.
Hart said his company sees its market for the Terraces as retirees who moved to Southwest Florida up to 10 years ago and want to stay in the area. The apartments range in size from 3,000 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
"Our biggest competitor is not another retirement community, it is the senior's home," Hart said, alluding to people who want to stay put rather than move to a senior care community.
Prospective residents have about eight contract options with varying levels of refund levels to move out; the entrance fee is higher with the higher refund amount desired. Hart declined to disclose what the entrance fees are at the Terraces.
Moorings also has introduced refund options of 50 percent or 90 percent, which has helped with marketing. Another perk announced in November was a 10 percent to 15 percent discount on the entrance fee, depending on the apartment selected.
Moorings Park was established 30 years ago and has an A-plus Fitch credit rating.
"Occupancy is at 98 percent," Brinkert said. "We have seen nice growth over the past nine months."
The Terraces at Bonita Springs will feature 144 independent living apartments with one to three bedrooms. In addition, there will be 48 assisted apartments, 40 skilled nursing beds and 18 memory support suites.
The community will offer several dining options and lifestyle amenities, including a fitness center and pool, educational programs, catering and concierge services.
The Terraces apartments are more than 80 percent reserved, which took about 27 months to achieve, said Lee Blanchard, sales and marketing director. Typically a project must have a 75 percent reservation threshold in order to get bond financing, he said.
"That is higher than what it used to be because of the housing market," he said. "We reached that number back in August 2011 and we financed (the project) in November 2011."
In Naples, Moorings Park is adding 29 apartments, all reserved already, ranging in size from 2,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet. The apartments are in three buildings slated for completion in late September, Brinkert said.
That will be followed by the October opening of the Trio restaurant, a fifth dining option in Moorings Park, that will be on the ground floor of one of the buildings.
In May 2013, the Center for Healthy Living will open. The building that is under construction along Goodlette-Frank Road will offer amenities for the mind, body and spirit, Brinkert said.
In January, Moorings Park hired a chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Gloth, as a staff geriatrician. He began offering primary-care services to residents and also will develop a healthy aging plan and wellness regime for residents, Brinkert said.
The healthy aging center will offer programs for the mind, body and spirit for physical activity and will have a 75-seat capacity lecture hall with amphitheater seating to show films, for lectures, plays and other programs. The center also will offer a salon and spa, retail space and an Internet cafe.
The 29 new apartments at Moorings have custom design features. For instance, some apartments will have music rooms, some will have wine cellars, large dining and kitchen, and some have space dedicated to exercise, Brinkert said.