Ownership change draws near for Robin Run: NBA reorganization plan calls for sale to Brookdale

March 14, 2005

Robin Run Village, a northwest-side retirement complex, could start spring under new management if it and other National Benevolent Association properties are sold in the next few weeks as expected.

Robin Run and 10 other NBA locations around the country are slated to become the property of Chicago-based Brookdale Living Communities.

Brookdale's parent, Fortress NBA Acquisition LLC, bid $210 million last year to buy the senior living locations from the bankrupt NBA for Brookdale, but the deal still has some state regulatory hurdles to cross.

The deal should be complete by April, said Carol Jendrzey, a San Antonio lawyer who represents a committee of residents from NBA properties in bankruptcy court. The St. Louis-based NBA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection in February 2004 with more than $220 million in debt.

Shortly after the sale closes, Robin Run will change hands from the not-for-profit NBA to the for-profit Brookdale, a transaction Jendrzey expects to proceed smoothly.

The 86-acre Robin Run complex offers 228 garden homes, around 200 apartments and a health care center. Residents have greeted the pending change with a mixture of anxiety about the future and eagerness for change. They've also started to form a not-for-profit entity to carry out charitable work the NBA performed.

"I think they are still pleased with the process except for the fact that they wish it would move a little faster," Jendrzey said. "I think they're ready for new management."

Earlier this month, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Texas confirmed a reorganization plan for the NBA, which has deeper Indianapolis roots than its presence at Robin Run.

The association serves as the socialservices arm of the Disciples of Christ, which has its U.S. and Canadian headquarters here. The church has monitored the case closely and helped pick a new board of directors for the association, spokeswoman Wanda Bryant Wills said.

Under the reorganization plan, the association will pay off all its creditors, plus interest. However, it will become a much smaller institution in the process. The association once operated more than 90 locations in 20 states, Wills said. It will emerge from bankruptcy with only five locations and none in Indiana.

Much of the money used to repay creditors will come from property sales. Brookdale spokeswoman Megan Norris declined to comment on what her company plans to do with the new properties, but Brookdale representatives have spoken to Robin Run residents.

Representatives said they might introduce menu changes and heating and cooling equipment upgrades, said Bob Logan, president of the Robin Run residents' council.

"I think they've got a real fine program outlined," he said.

Residents are concerned about what will happen to their rates. But the new owner agreed to freeze rent and maintenance fees for a year if occupancy stays above a certain level, said Jim Moloy, a lawyer for the Indianapolis firm of Dann Pecar Newman & Kleiman who represents the Robin Run residents' council.

Religion is another concern. A "good percentage" of community residents are Disciples of Christ followers, Logan said. The NBA employed a chaplain at Robin Run, and the community hosts regular Sunday services.

Brookdale agreed to keep a chaplain, but the details of that plan have yet to be worked out.

"They'll probably have volunteers maybe, or work out a program with churches in the area," Logan said. "It's so new for them they haven't been able to spell it out yet."

All in all, resident Ethel Seitz expects no huge physical changes once Brookdale takes over. The retired English teacher has lived 12 years at Robin Run, and she says the change will nevertheless be sad.

A lifelong Disciples of Christ follower, Seitz has grown attached to the NBA.

"It will be kind of different not knowing we're connected to them, that's the basic thing, and not being connected with the church," she said. "I just think it's an emotional thing; we're sorry it happened to them."
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