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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 14, 2017  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Menorah Manor sells The Inn on the Pond

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

The assisted living facility got its name because of the picturesque pond on the property, where the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center also once stood. With the sale, the ALF has been rebranded as The Preserve at Clearwater. The assisted living facility got its name because of the picturesque pond on the property, where the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center also once stood. With the sale, the ALF has been rebranded as The Preserve at Clearwater. A little more than five years after its grand opening on April 1, 2012, The Inn on the Pond, an assisted living facility in Clearwater operated by Menorah Manor, was sold on June 30.

The 80-unit rental facility was sold to Florwater Investment Group, LLC, a joint venture between affiliates of Solera Senior Living, LLC, and Elkco Properties, Inc., and has now been rebranded as The Preserve at Clearwater.

The decision to sell was not an easy one, but had to be done to help sustain the future of the “mother ship,” Menorah Manor’s St. Petersburg campus: the Marion and Bernard L. Samson Nursing Center and Toby Weinman Assisted Living Residences, said Menorah Manor CEO Rob Goldstein.

At The Inn on the Pond at its grand opening, April 1, 2012 At The Inn on the Pond at its grand opening, April 1, 2012 “Unforeseen changes in the marketplace and the rapidly changing reimbursement landscape forced us to carefully evaluate whether or not it would strengthen or weaken our organization as a whole to continue operating Inn on the Pond,” he said, adding, “Let there be no doubt whatsoever that our St. Petersburg operations will continue to offer the Menorah Manor high standard of care for many years to come.”

The idea for a senior living residence for the Jewish community in north Pinellas County was first pitched in 1988, but it took years for the idea to become a reality. There were changes in proposed locations and the Great Recession in 2008 caused funding woes that set the project back. The facility finally opened in 2012 at the site of the former Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center on Greenbriar Boulevard in north Clearwater.

Goldstein explained that even though Menorah Manor took on sizeable debt to build and open Inn on the Pond, it was anticipated at the time that the new facility would help Menorah Manor’s bottom line, not hinder it.

In recent years, however, there have been changes in how Menorah is reimbursed for care delivered to senior residents. That, he said, combined with the need to offer higher levels of care than originally forecast, led to the decision to sell.

“Financially, the Inn on the Pond has not met its goals,” Goldstein said, adding that the sale eliminated a significant portion of Menorah Manor’s debt.

As for those who made donations to Inn on the Pond, a prepared statement from Menorah Manor reads, “Our hope is that donors will maintain confidence in Menorah Manor. By being completely transparent, we hope that our donors will respect the fact that this was a very tough decision, and it was made with the community’s best interests at heart.”

The sale of the Inn on the Pond is yet another setback for the Pinellas Jewish community, which in recent years has seen the Pinellas County Jewish Day School close, a Hebrew charter school open and fold, and the JCC go defunct.

When Inn on the Pond opened, Menorah Manor promised it would “offer assisted living with an independent spirit, with a commitment to dignity and Jewish traditions, and an active lifestyle … (with) premium amenities, elegant dining areas and abundant recreational, wellness, intellectual and social opportunities.”

It also offered kosher meals for all residents, which ceased with the sale.

Inn on the Pond is licensed for 93 assisted living residents and had 85 at the time of the sale. Goldstein noted that the number of residents at the facility was not an issue in the decision to sell, as the percentage of rooms filled has always been high.

All those living at Inn on the Pond under Menorah Manor ownership have so far opted to stay, though one resident who keeps strictly kosher is exploring the possibility of moving to Weinberg Village, located on the Tampa JCCs & Federation’s Maureen and Douglas Cohn campus in northwest Hillsborough County, or moving to Menorah Manor facilities in St. Petersburg. Adam Kaplan, CEO of Solera Living, said the new ownership will continue to provide the man with kosher meals.

While the facility will no longer maintain a kosher kitchen, it will offer a menu that includes “kosher style” items, Kaplan said.

Goldstein said Menorah Manor vetted the new buyers, seeking ones who would maintain a high level of care for Inn on the Pond residents and would try to maintain some of the Jewish elements that Menorah Manor offered.

Under Menorah Manor ownership, Inn on the Pond celebrated all the Jewish holidays, had Friday night Shabbat dinners and Shabbat morning services and at least once a week Rabbbi Leah Herz of Menorah Manor led educations classes on Hebrew, current events or the weekly Torah portion.

“Rabbi Herz will continue to have an involvement at the new building. She will do at least one Shabbat a month and one activity a month to maintain the ties she had to the Jewish residents there. We are happy to do that and she has made relationships with families and we will make her available for that.” Goldstein said.

Solera Living CEO Kaplan, who is Jewish, said he welcomed the offer of Menorah Manor sending Rabbi Herz to The Preserve and said even if over time Menorah Manor assigns her elsewhere, his company would seek another rabbi to lead Shabbat services.

He also said as long as Menorah Manor is willing to continue its nationally recognized YOUniversity program at The Preserve, which is funded by a Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties grant and led by Rabbi Herz, he welcomes it.

Kaplan served in a variety of roles for years at Senior Lifestyles Corp. a company his father founded in Chicago in 1985. Kaplan left Senior Lifestyles and started his company, Solera Living, also based in Chicago, last year. This is Kaplan’s first acquisition as Solera CEO and it was done so in a joint venture with Elkco Properties, a Denver-based company that has senior living facilities in several states. The company is led by Steve Elken, who is also Jewish.

Kaplan came to Inn on the Pond prior to the closing to assure management and staff that their jobs were secure and meet with residents to make the transition of ownership as smooth as possible – a priority, he said, as change of any type is often hard for the elderly. He said he wanted to hear their concerns and ask what improvements they might want.

Kaplan said there is a Residents Council and he and his partner Elken will seek input from them.

“We want the least amount of disruption to the residents’ normal routine as possible,” he said.

The change in ownership is ushering in some immediate changes. Kaplan said celebrations of Jewish holidays will continue, but said at best, no more than half the residents are Jewish, so those who are non-Jewish will now be able to eat non-kosher meals and celebrate their religious holidays outside of their rooms. He also said The Preserve will begin offering programs seven days a week for its residents. Before, no programs were offered on Saturdays.

Asked how his new venture might succeed when Menorah Manor was compelled to sell, he said, “By recapitalizing the property, we have significantly lower debt.” He added that training and retaining the staff and not maintaining a kosher kitchen will help lower costs.

From a marketing perspective, the Preserve will continue to cater to the Jewish community, but the ALF will also be promoted to a broader clientele, Kaplan said.

Public records show the purchase price was $15.3 million.

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