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Jennings at Brecksville: Life As It Should Be

When Jennings at Brecksville officially opened on August 8 of this year, it was a picture perfect day for a dedication and opening ceremony. Jennings President and CEO Allison Q. Salopeck welcomed the large gathering outdoors at the building’s entrance, followed by a dedication mass. The Most Reverend Bishop Roger Gries, OSB, celebrated the gathering by blessing the new assisted living (AL) residence. Guests gathered in fellowship, explored with tours, and enjoyed a delicious assortment prepared by Jennings’ culinary services staff. Joining the celebration were new Jennings at Brecksville residents, who relished the event with their families.

The story of Jennings began long before August, however, and can be traced all the way back to Monsignor Gilbert P. Jennings, the founding pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon his death on April 17, 1941, Monsignor Jennings gave life to a new era of senior care. Having inherited a large sum of money from the estate of his brother, Monsignor Jennings designated in his will that a rest home be built. His vision was to provide safe, comfortable and affordable housing for aging citizens who would not otherwise be able to provide for themselves with a suitable home. What has evolved in his memory is a campus community with a full continuum of care, services and progressive programs that inspire and celebrate life.

Founded in 1942, Jennings is a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. Jennings offers several services at its campus in Garfield Heights, Ohio, including: affordable apartments for adults 55 and older, AL, adult day services, Alzheimer’s/dementia care, infant and child day care, long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, and villa homes. 

Celebrating 75 years of Catholic-based care and residences, Jennings aims to offer life as it should be for older adults and their families. It is said that people feel something special when they first walk through the front door at Jennings. Staff says that while people can’t quite put their finger on it, they often hear “you can just feel it.”

Financing the Brecksville Facility

A few years ago, leadership at Jennings sought strategies to assist in reviewing its existing debt at Garfield Heights campus, held in the form of Series 2009 bonds, and to obtain funds to construct a new AL residence in Brecksville, Ohio.

Working with its lender, Jennings decided on a two-stage approach to achieve its objectives. First, it would refinance its Series 2009 bonds with a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)/Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, taking advantage of the program’s low interest rate, long term and amortization, and nonrecourse feature. With the Brecksville new development anticipated, the FHA refinance would place the campus’s permanent debt in the name of a new real estate holding company. That would allow the separate borrower and operator of the Garfield Heights campus to make distributions of excess cash flow to the parent organization without restriction. The second stage would then fund the new construction project through the use of privately placed, tax-exempt bonds.

Lancaster Pollard first refinanced Jennings’ Series 2009 bonds using a $12.6 million loan via the FHA Sec. 232/223(f) program. The refinance cleared Jennings’ balance sheet and allowed for excess cash flow from the Garfield Heights campus to the Brecksville project. Nine months after the FHA Sec. 232/223(f) loan closed, Lancaster Pollard assisted Jennings with the placement of $15.7 million in Series 2015 tax-exempt bonds with a national bank to fund the new Jennings at Brecksville development. 

The new development features 74 AL suites and is an important part of Jennings’ plan to continue its mission of offering respect, compassion, community, discovery of potential and celebration of life. 

“With its two successful transactions and subsequent improved fiscal outlook, Jennings is now in an optimal position to serve its residents while also pursuing new services to expand its mission,” said Kass Matt, president of Lancaster Pollard, who worked with Jennings on the transaction. 

Located on Brecksville Road, Jennings at Brecksville is Jennings’ first development separated from its Garfield Heights campus. The nonprofit organization, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is Catholic-based but it serves individuals of all faiths. 

Salopeck stated that opening a new residence in Brecksville is a proud milestone. “Throughout our history we have found new ways to serve adults throughout northeast Ohio,” she said. “We are thrilled to commemorate this year with growth into this incredible community.” 

Jennings at Brecksville was built with 74 private, apartment-style suites, each which includes a kitchenette, separate living room and bedroom, and large walk-in closet. The suites also have varying design packages, so individuals may choose suites based on their preference for cabinet or flooring color. 

Don Posner, administrator for Jennings at Brecksville, commented that residents love the high-end finishes of granite counters, hardwood-style flooring and spacious suites. He also described an innovative upgrade: fall protection flooring. “No one can change the natural laws of gravity or predict the effect of a fall,” he said. “While falls can result in fractures or other negative outcomes, independent studies show that the floor’s force reduction is able to reduce up to 68% of severe fractures from a fall.”

Posner also discussed how individual, everyday choices are at the heart of lifestyles at Jennings at Brecksville. “We have indoor and outdoor amenities for residents to enjoy the company of neighbors as well as private moments, he said. “Residents enjoy choices in meals, support and activities, such as lifelong learning, trips, spiritual programs, happy hour and wellness. Numerous gathering areas also afford opportunities for movie nights, resident cooking, entertaining guests, creating art, and more. We look forward to residents directing the types of events that will occur.”

Salopeck noted that “many hearts and hands” helped to bring the residence to fruition. She stated, “We are thankful for our collaborative partners and funders who helped make Jennings at Brecksville possible: The City of Brecksville, St. Basil the Great Catholic Church, KeyBank, Lake James, Ltd., Lancaster Pollard, Port of Cleveland, RDL Architects and Krill Company. We welcome the community to visit this beautiful new residence.”

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