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Nearly all of the new senior apartments at Canterbury Woods’ proposed new Gates Circle facility in Buffalo are tentatively spoken for – more than two to three years before the luxury facility even opens its doors.

As of now, 51 people have made tentative deposits for “priority reservations” for the 53 units planned for the six-story independent living complex, which will be part of the company’s Amherst-based continuing-care retirement community.

That means each of them has paid a refundable fee of $2,000 to hold a spot on the list. And they will have the first opportunity to pay the larger 10 percent deposit to actually secure an apartment once state officials approve the facility’s “certificate of authority” so that construction can begin, said Rob Wallace, president and CEO of Canterbury Woods, which is run by the Episcopal Church Home and Affiliates.

Given that plans for the complex were announced only a few months ago, and a model unit was unveiled only Thursday, that “is truly spectacular and really shows that Western New Yorkers and the folks in downtown Buffalo are really embracing this concept coming to the city of Buffalo,” Wallace said.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be openings available when the building actually opens. Officials hope to get that state approval within a year, so they can start taking deposits by early summer of 2015, he said. But based on the experience nationally of other continuing care communities, 10 to 15 percent of the initial priority list tends to drop off, as people change their minds, their health changes, or they die. Even after deposits are paid, “a lot could happen” in the ensuing two years of construction, he said.

As a result, Wallace said, statistics show that about 65 percent to 70 percent of the priority list will end up being initial residents. “When you’re dealing with an elderly population, a lot can change in such a small time period,” he said.

Even so, officials were upbeat Thursday as they joined local political and business leaders to open the company’s new $250,000 marketing and sales office at 50 Gates Circle, across from the former Millard Fillmore Hospital site where it will go. The company also unveiled a new website, www.cwgatescircle.org.

The first-floor office, which will be open Monday through Friday, includes a fully furnished 1,000-square-foot model apartment unit across the hall, complete with a special back-lit window screen to show a view looking up Chapin Parkway from the upper floors of the building.

“Imagine enjoying the views looking up Chapin Parkway or down Delaware Avenue toward downtown Buffalo,” said Charles Maloney, chairman of the Canterbury Woods board of directors. “We have no doubt that people are excited by the prospect of being able to spend their retirement in a distinctly urban – distinctly Buffalo – location.”

Designed with the goal of enabling city residents to stay in the city as they grow older, the 130,000-square-foot Canterbury Woods building will be prominent on the circle, facing Chapin Parkway. Apartments will range in size from 800 to 2,000 square feet, with the smaller units being one-bedroom apartments, and the larger ones having two bedrooms.

“The early excitement for this project matches what we have been hearing and seeing for the past few years,” Wallace said. “People want to be a part of what is happening in Buffalo.”

Canterbury Woods is a senior living community for people age 62 and older, offering independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehab, and guaranteeing care once someone is in the system. It’s regulated by both the state Department of Health and Department of Financial Services.

It’s a form of insurance, because residents pay a significant upfront entrance fee, or investment, as a “buy-in” to the system and then a monthly fee on top of that. At Canterbury Woods, the entrance fee ranges from $300,000 to $700,000, depending on how much care they want to reserve in advance, while the monthly charges vary from $3,000 to just over $7,000.

However, 90 percent of the entrance fee is refunded to them or their estate if they leave or die, and their monthly fee remains constant throughout, regardless of the level of care they are receiving, Wallace noted.

Canterbury Woods’ $28 million complex, which also includes some assisted living, is part of the larger $63 million redevelopment of the 10-acre former hospital site, which is being converted into a sprawling mixed-use complex that also includes market-rate apartments, homes for sale, a 25,000-square-foot grocery store, a fitness center that could be YMCA Buffalo Niagara and community facilities.

The project’s developer, TM Montante, will bring its plans to the city Planning Board on Tuesday and is moving forward with the environmental review process, including evaluation of any historic structures, so that “we’re not bringing down anything we could adaptively reuse,” said TM Montante President Timothy Vaeth. That won’t be complete until the fall, however.

Meanwhile, no public hearing has been held, but Vaeth said officials are trying to talk to neighborhood residents “as much as possible ... because we know about the location and how important it is to everybody.”

A residential market study showed strong demand for both rental apartments and condos, justifying the plans for 500 such units, he said.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com