Benchmark acquires Mass. assisted-living community Wellesley Hills, Mass.-based Benchmark Assisted Living has purchased The Falls at Cordingly Dam, a 90-unit assisted-living facility in Newton Lower Falls, Mass. Before the sale, the community was called Heritage at The Falls. (The project is named for Cordingly Dam, a structure located behind the complex in a bend of the Charles River.) The seller was Heritage at The Falls Assisted Living LP, a venture of Newton, Mass.-based National Development and other investors. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The community offers a specially-designed program for residents with memory impairment.

Manorhouse brings assisted living to Virgina Beach Richmond, Va.-based Manorhouse Retirement Centers Inc. is developing Manorhouse Assisted Living, a $5.3 million, 57,213 sq. ft. assisted-living facility in Virginia Beach, Va. Construction of the community, which will house about 103 residents, began in November. Occupancy is slated for November 2000. Manorhouse Retirement also owns and will manage the complex.

Richmond-based Woolfolk Construction Co. is building the facility. Virginia Beach-based Langley and McDonald is the civil engineer, and Richmond-based Freeman and Morgan is the architect. Amenities will include housekeeping, laundry, transportation and social activities.

Cambridge funds loan for Illinois skilled-care center Chicago-based Cambridge Realty Capital Cos. has funded a $20.7 million refinancing loan for the West Shire Care Center, a 485-bed skilled-care facility in Cicero, Ill. A privately-held limited-liability corporation owns the center, which predominantly serves Medicaid patients.

The loan was funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 232/223 (f) program. Theloan, which closed in late November, has a 35-year amortization schedule. The nine-story West Shire was built in 1974.

Golden Living sees golden opportunity in Texas Dallas-based Golden Living Communities is developing the 230-unit Town Village Arlington independent-living facility in Arlington, Texas. Construction of the community began in September and is scheduled for completion this winter. Houston-based Cypress Senior Living owns the complex, which will be managed by Dallas-based 12 Oaks Management Services Inc.

Town Village Arlington will feature 28 studios, 132 one-bedroom, 20 one-bedroom and 50 two-bedroom apartments. Residents will be responsible for furnishing the units. Rents will include meals, scheduled transportation, utilities and housekeeping. The community will also feature a media room, a library/computer lab, a golf putting green, a sundries store and an emergency call system. The facility will be Cypress Senior Living's second independent-living community in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex.

Senior Resource developing Phoenix dementia-care facility San Diego-based Senior Resource Group LLC is developing Hawthorn Court at Ahwatukee, a $4.5 million, 44-unit dementia-care community in Phoenix. Construction of the single-story, 37,000 sq. ft. building began in fall 1999, and completion is expected by July 2000. Senior Resource will also manage the property.

Approximately 40% of the development will consist of common-space areas, such as dining and activity rooms, and health facilities. Hawthorn Court will also feature a built-in aviary and aquarium, and outdoor gardens.

Assisted-living future looks OK, says Ernst & Young and ALFA A recent study by New York-based Ernst & Young and the Fairfax, Va.-based Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) says the assisted-living industry should be a solid investment opportunity in the future. The report says that, from 1996 to early-1999, the industry performed as well as other small- and mid-cap stocks found in the NASDAQ composite and the Russell 2000 Index. Since the start of 1999, the stock valuations of assisted-living companies have dropped below their original IPOs. The study also says industry capitalization was about $35 million in 1994. By 1997, that figure had ballooned to approximately $3.8 billion in 1997. However, during the past two years, that total has decreased to around $2 billion. This has led many to conclude the industry is currently undervalued, the report says.

The report admits that assisted living is hurt from an investment standpoint by inconsistent market values and a slow transaction rate, but notes the future looks good considering that many companies are undervalued and the demand for seniors housing will rise in the near future as the baby boomers age.

The Vineyard begins to bear fruit in San Diego San Diego-based Tri-National Development Corp. is developing The Vineyard, a 22-acre, 424-unit seniors-housing community in Temecula, Calif. Construction is slated to start this month. The total cost is estimated to be $50 million.

The community will include 69 townhomes, 72 Alzheimer's units, 141 independent-living units, 142 assisted-living units and 16,000 sq. ft. of medical buildings. Amenities will include landscaped walking paths, a pool, recreation and barbecue areas, and a clubhouse.

Beat Report

Don't throw in the towel; there are reasons to lift our glasses

Seniors report: There are reasons to smile As I write this column, it is several weeks before the new year. Assuming that Y2K hasn't plunged the world into anarchical madness and there still is a seniors-housing industry, I thought this would be a good time to examine the possible future of seniors housing, courtesy of a recent report by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Marcus & Millichap. While acknowledging the industry's various problems, the study also gives cause for optimism.

"While the senior care industry continues to flounder under the weight of the new Prospective Payment System (PPS), falling stock prices and changing legislation, the fundamentals that affect its growth remain solid," the report says. "The target population continues to increase in both total number and net worth, while the total revenue of the seniors-housing industry continues to grow. Meanwhile, despite substantial new development, the national market continues to be under-supplied." Among the study's other findings:

* During the next half-decade, the number of U.S. residents who are 75 or older will increase by 13.7%. During that same period, the median income of this population segment will grow by 14.5% nationwide, to $20,232.

* Seniors-housing building experienced a boon in 1999, as construction increased by a third to 65,879 units. However, the report cautions that construction "will likely slow in 2000 due to reduced capital availability and rising interest rates."

* Vacancy rates will "remain stable at 5% nationwide, though resident turnover remains high."Competition will soften rent growth and enhance service quality."

* The sales prices of nursing homes will decrease, while the sales prices of other seniors-housing facilities will "stabilize over the next 12 months."

Overall, the seniors-housing market "will favor the more nimble mid-sized investor over the publicly traded institutional national firms staggering under the effect of weak stock prices," the study says.

As the new year begins, it's nice to have some good news, albeit tempered, about the seniors-housing industry. Conversations about the industry can be gloomy at times. This Marcus & Millichap report provides a comprehensive and fair look at seniors housing. And while it does not ignore some of the industry's problems, the report also points to various reasons for optimism. That's cause for a New Year's toast.