ORLANDO—Big Rock Partners just bought nineacres of land in the Orlando suburb of Celebration, FL fromCelebration Company. The developer plans to builda $60 million, class A senior housing rentaldevelopment there with ground breaking in the first quarter of2015. It's significant because it's Celebration's firstsenior housing community to offer independentliving, assisted living and memory care services.

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Big Rock has big backers. Sabra Health CareREIT loaned the firm $4.5 million for the land transactionand plans to offer additional capital to build the seniorhousing facility, according to Big Rock senior managingprincipal Richard Ackerman.

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“The senior living industry is in flux, as theeconomy recovers and demand rises,” says Ackerman, who oversawApollo Real Estate Advisors' West Coast and Japaninvestments before forming Big Rock in 2006. “Occupancy stayedrelatively steady throughout the recession, but many senior livingcommunities built 25 or 30 years ago have not kept pace with theamenities and ambiance consumers now expect. Demand is strongnationwide for a new generation of rental alternatives to thetraditional 'buy-in' continuing care retirement community.”

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The senior housing facility will offer 225rental residences when it comes to market in mid-2016.Perkins Eastman, an international senior livingdesign and consulting firm, is designing the senior housingcommunity. America's third largest senior living managementcompany, Life Care Services, will operate andmarket the community. Walker & Dunlop is thefinance advisor.

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“Institutional investors were not big players in the seniorhousing space until about two years ago,” says Ackerman, whooversaw the successful turnaround of Summerville SeniorLiving, one of the nation's largest assisted livingcompanies and now part of Brookdale Senior Living,for Apollo. “Now, with ample capital available, they're taking afresh look at new rental communities that include independent andassisted living plus memory care. At the same time, Baby Boomersare driving real changes in quality, choices and flexibility ofsenior living environments for their parents and,in future, for themselves.”

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As Akerman sees it, new $50 million and up rental developmentswith choice locations and resort-style amenities are mitigatingrisk for institutional investors and appealing to consumers'sophisticated tastes and financial realities. Big Rock has a secondproperty under contract in Palm Beach County, FL and is activelypursuing other class A sites.

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The community of Celebration just southwest of Orlando.Developed by The Walt Disney Company, Celebration has, since itsfounding in the mid-1990s, gained worldwide recognition as a highlysuccessful example of New Urbanism principles, with diverse housingtypes for residents of all ages.

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