Purchase College plans senior living community on campus

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, Purchase College plans to introduce a senior housing community to its campus, matching a national trend.

The plan is for the college, which is part of the SUNY system, to team up with a private senior care company to build and operate 385 units for seniors 62 and older on 40 acres of Purchase’s 500-acre campus.

The school will work with Life Care Services and Senior Care Development LLC, an Iowa-based company. The plan tentatively calls for a mix of mostly independent living villas, with a smaller amount of assisted living and memory care units.

Purchase received approval from the state to go forward with the project in 2011, following an eight-year consideration process that included a veto from Gov. David Paterson in 2008.

For the school, the project offers a chance at increased revenue — 75 percent of which would go to scholarships and 25 percent for faculty hiring and support.

Elizabeth Robertson, director of government relations and strategic projects, said having a senior living community on campus can offer benefits beyond just financial.

“For students, there’s new audiences for performances, students will be able to find jobs in the new learning community,” Robertson said. “And opportunities for mentorship in both directions. Students will be able to get mentors for their careers and at the same time could mentor seniors interested in the arts or in computer science.”

For potential senior residents, the housing community would offer all the benefits of living on a college campus, Robertson said.

“You have access to a performing arts center, you have access to the Neuberger (Museum of Art), and you have access to all the academic and social programs that go on at a college,” Robertson said. “It’s a very vibrant learning community and people will be able to join it.”

The community will feature classrooms, performance spaces, dining venues, social gathering areas and health and wellness facilities. The college also plans to develop new programs of study around the senior living community.

The monthly cost and possible entrance fees have not yet been determined, Robertson said.

Universities collaborating with private enterprise to construct senior living communities, however, is not a new concept outside the SUNY system. In New York, Cornell University helped build a public-private senior living community. Dozens of other universities around the country, including Stanford University and Duke University, have completed senior living projects.

Purchase sees the potential senior living community as a way to help alleviate the pressure on the county’s senior housing from a growing community of people 65 and older. More than 15 percent of the county’s population is 65 or older, and that amount will continue to grow as the baby boomer generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) reaches retirement age.

Construction of the project would be funded through tax-exempt bonds, but Robertson said the exact amount has not yet been determined, as the school has not finished a design or selected a contractor.

The project is now in the environmental review process.

“I think this a real win for Westchester County and residents,” Robertson said. “This is a validation of our vision of education as a lifelong commitment.”

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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