Two years ago, Severine Petras wanted a career change.
The Ohio native and investment banker worked with Merrill Lynch Capital in Chicago where she focused on the financing of skilled nursing homes and assisted- and independent-living facilities.
Her mother, Debbie Petras, had more than a decade of experience in health care and senior care. Brother Bobby Petras worked in management, staffing and training, while his wife, Brandi, assisted senior citizens as a social worker.
Severine Petras said with such family know-how it just made sense to create Lamplight Communities, a senior housing operation. I thought to myself, I have all of these resources right here in my own family.
Petras, Lamplights president and CEO, hopes to open Lamplight Inn of Fort Wayne by July. Lamplight plans to convert the former Fort Wayne Hotel and Conference Center downtown.
The hotel was sold at a sheriffs sale in September to TRB Fort Wayne Inn after Fort Wayne Hospitality defaulted on $3.7 million borrowed from New York-based BRT Realty Trust. Lamplight confirmed in early April that it planned to buy the property from BRT Realty.
Current economic conditions make it ideal to invest in commercial real estate, Petras said, adding and when will I ever get a chance to do something like this?
She has partnered with friend Ben Klein of Platinum Healthcare, based in Skokie, Ill., which formed in 2001 to acquire and manage long-term-care facilities. Platinum owns and operates 13 centers and manages 2,138 units in Illinois, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
Having Ben on is a real asset, Petras said. We see affordable senior care as something that will be a need in the years ahead.
Statistics appear to back her up.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports the population of people 65 and older likely will double in the next 25 years. By 2030, nearly one out of five Americans – about 72 million people – will be 65 or older. People 85 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the nations population.
People are living longer, said Bobby Petras, chief operating officer for Lamplight who lives in Fort Wayne and has played for the citys Freedom indoor football team. This is a market where there is a need.
Lamplight Inn of Fort Wayne, 300 E. Washington Blvd., will represent a $4 million investment at the former hotel. The company also has a location in Maple Heights, Ohio, and another site is in the works in Toronto, Ohio.
In Fort Wayne, a central dining area, deli, café and other additions are planned, Petras said. The pool will remain for residents leisure.
The family will make renovations and plans to fill the facility with 170 residents. Most tenants will be 75 or older. They will pay $2,700 a month for room, board and assistance. Many of them will rely on Medicaid.
Stephanie Wardlow is a social worker at the Maple Heights Office on Aging in Ohio. She has worked with various owners of the facility Lamplight took over a couple of months ago.
They have introduced themselves, but its kind of soon to have any opinions, said Wardlow, whose agency provides a variety of social, educational, recreational services and programs for seniors.
We work with them. I hear they will be installing automatic doors, so thats a good start.
Assisted Living Federation of America, based in Alexandria, Va., said downtown housing for seniors is nothing new.
It is actually picking up steam as we see more consumers turn from the suburbs to be closer to the city, said Paul Williams, senior director of government relations for the group. They want that experience and seniors in downtown areas are a direct correlation of the trend.