Upscale Copley retirement community gets new owner

By Cheryl Powell
Beacon Journal medical writer

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The Palm Court Conservatory area at Concordia at Sumner. The center was recently purchased by a nonprofit that is hoping to pull it out of bankruptcy. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

COPLEY TWP.: A nonprofit health-care provider from Pennsylvania is bringing a new name and financial stability to the old Sumner on Ridgewood retirement community.

After operating under court receivership for five years, the sprawling community with upscale villas and apartments and assisted-living and skilled-nursing beds recently was purchased by Concordia Lutheran Ministries for $23 million.

The acquisition of the property — now called Concordia at Sumner — marks Concordia’s first venture into Ohio. The company’s 10 other locations are in western Pennsylvania.

Concordia Lutheran Ministries President Keith E. Frndak said his company had been interested in acquiring the Sumner complex for more than four years.

“It’s just a beautiful community,” he said.

Concordia has a history of growth by acquiring financially troubled properties.

In March, Concordia bought two personal-care facilities in the Pittsburgh market out of bankruptcy for $7 million, Frndak said. Another three properties were purchased in recent years just before the facilities went to bankruptcy.

“It would be our intention to stabilize and improve the facility’s financial performance,” Frndak said of Sumner.

The former Sumner on Merriman Inc. put its landmark nursing home on Merriman Road up for sale in 2003 so it could focus on the $55 million retirement community in Copley. But by 2008, Sumner’s lender sought the court-supervised receivership, saying Sumner owed about $1.5 million in missed payments and other obligations.

Concordia’s recent acquisition of Sumner includes assumption of $13.8 million in refunds that are due to residents when they move out, Frndak said.

With the purchase of Sumner, Concordia now operates 555 independent-living units, 901 personal-care or assisted-living beds, 290 skilled-nursing beds and 16 hospice beds.

The company also provides home- and community-based services, including professional- and private-duty home care, durable medical equipment and community hospice services.

Concordia expects to post an operating margin of 7 or 8 percent on revenues of $125 million this year, Frndak said.

Karl and Ellen Hay said they’re pleased with the new ownership for Sumner.

“They bring in substantial assets, a better foundation and extra expertise,” said Karl Hay, a retired Akron attorney who worked with developers throughout his career.

The Hays moved into a two-bedroom apartment about 14 months ago after selling their home of more than 50 years in Fairlawn Heights. The active couple, both in their mid-80s, wanted to downsize to the retirement community while both are healthy.

“The kids were relieved because they didn’t have to worry about us,” he said.

The 64-acre property in Copley includes 22 villas, 79 one- and two-bedroom apartments, 40 assisted-living beds and 48 skilled-nursing beds.

Amenities include a fitness center, meditation room, indoor pool and whirlpool, an auditorium, a library, a computer center and an upscale dining hall, complete with linen tablecloths.

Though the villas are fully occupied and the assisted-living and nursing-home beds are running at near-capacity, about a third of the apartments are vacant, according to Concordia officials.

Concordia has added financing options for its apartments, said Charlene L. Kish, chief executive of Concordia at Sumner. She also is continuing her corporate role as vice president of skilled nursing and rehabilitation for Concordia.

“We’ve tried to give more options so we could make it more attractive to more people,” Kish said.

While some people might still opt for a larger, partially refundable entrance fee in exchange for lower monthly payments, new options are available with smaller initial fees of $25,000, she said. The option might be attractive to retirees who have larger monthly pensions but less cash on hand.

Monthly fees for the apartments range from $1,200 to $3,700, depending on services and the entrance fee option selected.

Kish said Concordia plans to make about $1.2 million worth of upgrades to Sumner over the next year, including replacing carpeting throughout the facilities, updating furnishings, boosting Internet access and installing electronic medical records.

The company brought its own rehabilitation program to Sumner rather than continuing to outsource the services, Kish said. The firm is trying to boost on-site services and attract more short-term rehabilitation patients to its skilled nursing facility.

In addition, Concordia is looking for opportunities for partnerships with area hospitals and health-care providers to enhance services, she said.

“This is a whole continuum of care here,” Kish said.

Concordia at Sumner will host an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. today with tours of the campus, entertainment and refreshments. The property is located across from Copley High School at 970 Sumner Parkway.

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or Follow Powell on Twitter at

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