Ethical investor and extra care operator join forces to unveil £300m push for new generation of ultra-sustainable assisted living communities

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Aerial of St Christopher's site

Ethical investor and extra care operator join forces to deliver their first net zero scheme in Bristol, with sights set on series of further communities creating as many as 1,000 later-living homes

FORE Partnership, the purpose-driven, transformational real estate investment firm, has formed a joint venture with extra care operator Amicala to deliver a new generation of ultra-sustainable later living developments in southern and central England.

The JV is actively seeking opportunities to develop as much as £300 million in ultra-sustainable net zero extra care communities, in aggregate as many as 1,000 units.  Target projects have a minimum potential of 100 units, and will be located in strong regional centres like Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Cambridge, and within the M25.

The partnership’s first extra care scheme will be in Bristol, after the JV completed the acquisition of a five-acre site in the Westbury Park area to the north of the city centre.

The site, purchased from Aurora, is on the grounds of the former St Christopher’s School, which closed in 2020, and comprises around 93,000 sq ft of existing buildings including the Grade-II listed Grace House. The scheme, which could see an investment of up to £80 million, will involve the sympathetic and sustainable refurbishment of the existing buildings as well as new development.

The Bristol extra care community will be designed to achieve the highest standards in sustainability and will be net zero carbon in operation, one of the only extra care communities in the UK to be NZC. The exemplar project will also be designed to deliver social benefit to the local community and promote principles of sustainable living and the circular economy, with a particular focus on on-site food production in partnership with local social enterprises, not only providing benefits in terms of environment but also boosting the wellbeing of residents who will have access to the gardens.

The move marks FORE’s first foray into extra care after developing a range of commercial and residential assets, including offices and co-living properties that place a premium on driving positive environmental and social returns.  FORE became a B Corporation in 2020, committing it to pursue purpose alongside profit, and has set an industry-leading target to achieve net-zero carbon across its business and portfolio by 2025.

The JV has appointed First Base as development manager to deliver the project given its strong reputation in Bristol, experience in repurposing heritage assets, and focus on sustainability and delivering positive social impact. The appointment of a design team and engagement with local residents, businesses, and stakeholders will begin shortly.

First Base is a leading mixed-use developer with a track record of delivering long-term financial and social value for communities across the UK.  It is currently leading the regeneration of the Soapworks site in central Bristol into homes, workspace and community facilities. Soapworks was granted planning permission by Bristol City Council in late April.

Amicala, part of Seniors Living Group along with Allegra Care, is an operator of extra care communities that support residents to age in place with a core focus on wellbeing and the provision of care and lifestyle services.  Amicala’s senior management team has over 50 years of experience in the senior living industry in the UK and Australia.

Extra care is a relatively new model of senior living in the UK that is very different to traditional retirement housing in both scale and the services provided. The model enables seniors who remain relatively independent to move into the community, with a minimum base line of care, which can then be increased as they age, ultimately providing full wrap around care. According to trade body ARCO, in the UK just 0.6% of over 65s currently reside in extra care communities compared to 5% to 6% in Australia, New Zealand and the US.

With an emphasis on wellbeing, community, and flexible care provision, extra care communities play a positive role in helping people lead healthier lives, reducing NHS pressures, lowering social care costs, and helping tackle the loneliness epidemic by boosting social connection. The communities also help strengthen the local housing market for all generations, as those who move into extra care facilities may sell their family homes, creating opportunities for families to up-size, which in turn boosts the availability of smaller homes for first-time buyers.

The Bristol project will help address the shortage of extra care housing in the local area, supporting the whole of the city. Within Bristol, the over 65s account for one in every seven people, while there are 9,100 people aged 85 or older. By 2043 Bristol City Council predicts there will be a 40% increase over 75s in Bristol, which demonstrates the increasing demand for age-appropriate housing.

Squire Patton Boggs acted as legal advisor to FORE Partnership & Amicala. Cushman & Wakefield and Shoosmith’s acted for the vendor.

Basil Demeroutis, Managing Partner, FORE, said: “It has been made abundantly clear as the UK has lived through the Covid pandemic that the quality of our homes has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing.  This is true for seniors as much as anyone and we want to bring our experience in developing ultra-sustainable, thoughtfully-designed buildings to bare in creating a new generation of net zero carbon later living developments around the UK.  With Amicala, we have a real alignment of values, sharing a commitment to sustainability and social impact, and see huge potential in this partnership to create communities that produce positive outcomes for their residents in terms of health, wellbeing, and quality of life, while also being good for their local community and the planet.”

Paul Spence, CEO of Amicala, said: “We are delighted to have formed a joint venture with FORE and to have completed the acquisition of St Christopher’s. The need for high-quality extra care communities has never been greater. With an ageing population, now is the time to create exciting, attractive and sustainable communities that deliver for seniors that support ageing in place.  Together with FORE Partnership, we will deliver communities that are designed to meet the expectations of the new generation of retirees, reflecting the values that we share with them.”

Lucinda Mitchell, Director, First Base, said: “St Christopher’s has a rich history in Bristol and we very much look forward to engaging with local residents, businesses, Bristol City Council and key stakeholders over the coming months as we start to formulate the future plans. At the heart of the proposals will be a strong focus on high quality design, environmental sustainability, repurposing heritage buildings and delivering positive social impact to the local community.”

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Aerial of St Christopher’s site

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