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BOCA RATON — The owners of a 60-year-old church in Boca Raton want to sell their building and land, opening the door for developers to build one of the city’s largest assisted living facilities in a prominent part of town.
The 8,460-square-foot Center for Spiritual Living has long been a fixture of the community, situated at 2 SW 12th Ave., about a half-mile east of I-95′s West Palmetto Park Road exit.
The Rev. Barbara Lunde wants to retire and she and her daughter, the Rev. Jill Guerra, want to sell the property to make way for a three-story, 135,238-square-foot facility with 128 beds.
Boca Raton-based commercial real estate firm Whelchel Partners is trying to buy the property, according to its owner Jay Whelchel, who said he will eventually partner with an operator, yet to be determined, to run the facility. He said he’s trying to fill a market demand for assisted living that’s closer to where people live in Boca.
Boca Raton currently has 20 assisted living facilities with a total of 1,227 beds, according data from Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. A city of about 100,000 people, Boca is known for its retiree community, with over 26% of its population over 65 years old, according to U.S. Census data.
“ALFs are often sparse and off the beaten path, where this is right on the edge of a number of communities, but right up on Palmetto Park Road, so it’s meant to be a part of the fabric of the community,” Whelchel said.
The location of this proposed facility will “allow the families to gather often and conveniently. And that’s a big deal,” according to Whelchel.
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“When these facilities are way off the beaten path, out there in the middle of nowhere, 20, 30, 40 miles away from the adult child looking after them, and they’re trying to raise their children and hold down a job, it’s very difficult to spend quality time with those aging parents,” he said.
The proposal has generated some opposition, most notably from some neighbors.
Holli Sutton, whose house abuts the site of the church, says a large assisted living facility wouldn’t be a good fit for a community with single-family homes, such as Boca Square. She voiced her concern with the size of the proposed facility, its proximity to so many homes and to the newly rebuilt Addison Mizner School and the associated traffic.
“It’s supposed to be single-family homes with low density and they want to change it to medium density and have assisted living in a neighborhood setting,” she said. “It’s out of character for the neighborhood.”
Whelchel said shift changes for the staff and visiting hours for the residents and their families can be tightly controlled so the traffic doesn’t interfere with pickup and drop-off at the school.