Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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November 9, 2016

Menlo Park Academy Celebrates Milestone on Renovating the Historic Joseph & Feiss Building
Almost four years ago, after experiencing expansive early growth and quickly outgrowing their rented facility, Menlo Park Academy (MPA) set a vision for a bright future for Northeast Ohio’s gifted children. After an extensive property search, the school settled on purchasing the historic Joseph & Feiss Clothing Company property at W. 53rd Street in Cleveland as their future campus site. Centrally accessible, this seven-acre property with a main building of almost 80,000 square feet, enables MPA to offer their excellent education to almost twice as many children while helping to meet one of the goals of The Cleveland Plan by increasing the number of seats in high performing schools in the city. As a partner school of CMSD, MPA works closely with district leadership on finding ways to bridge the district-charter gap.
A major milestone in completing this vision was achieved on Friday when the full financing package for the $17 million renovation project officially closed. “We were fortunate to connect with Cleveland Development Advisors (CDA) early in our planning, as they connected us with several of the experts who were able to put together this incredibly complex financing package. We are grateful for their partnership on this project that will be transformational to the neighborhood and for so many children”, said one of the school’s founders and Board Chair Teri Harrison.  As one of the first organizations to support this project, CDA allocated $12 M in New Market Tax Credits to this critical effort. Steve Luca, Managing Vice President of Cleveland Development Associates commented on the closing, “Menlo Park is one of those projects that just had to get done.  It is the epitome of “catalytic” to our community. The tough ones are always the most important.” Combining tax credits with the OFCC grant and socially-focused lenders was especially complicated. OFCC Executive Director, David M. Williamson commented on supporting the project, “Students benefit most when they have the opportunity to learn in a building that provides a warm, safe and modern educational environment.  We are pleased to have the chance to work with Menlo Park on the development of this project, and the Commission looks forward to seeing the completed school.”
The project required a non-traditional approach to partnership and financing.  Working with local finance expert, Betsy Figgie, the school built a financial package involving multiple funding streams including both Historic and New Market Tax Credits, a grant from the USEPA, traditional financing, and one of the first facility grants from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission for high performing Community Schools. “I'm so happy to have been a small part of the mighty team that included Menlo, funders, investors - as well as attorneys, accountants, owner’s representatives, government relations specialists and others - to bring this catalytic project to fruition.” said Figgie.  Ms. Figgie is the owner and President of a financial firm that caters to the needs of non-profit organizations, helping them to negotiate and execute complex business ventures.  The work of Ms. Figgie and the legal team at BakerHostetler, headed by Nathan Ware, spent untold hours working between the lending agencies.
“It is not surprising to me that Menlo Park Academy embraced the complex financing necessary to bring the new school project to fruition.  Menlo’s approach to the transaction exemplifies their core philosophy of applying customized and innovative solutions to situations” said Ware.
Fraser Hamilton, the chair of the MPA Facilities Expansion Committee, “Our financial and community partners have been with us every step of this process. This culmination of our combined efforts is a success for all us. We are proud to be working with a group of private and public institutions dedicated to helping support education and grow Cleveland communities.”
Menlo Park Academy was founded in 2008 by parents seeking to an appropriate educational option for their gifted children. Serving students from over 40 different school districts in the Northeast Ohio area, enrollment has grown from 38 to over 400 students in the last eight years. The renovation of the W. 53rd property will allow the school to serve as a dynamic and agile learning environment including green space, flexible configurations for learning centers, and a community room that will be available for use by neighborhood organizations.  Melissa Ferchill, MPA’s owner’s representative and president of MCM Company, Inc. said in response to the project, “We are proud to be part of the team for the rehabilitation of a landmark building for such an important use as Menlo Park Academy’s new home.  Education is a critical component to the revitalization of Cleveland and its neighborhoods.”
Menlo Park Academy is actively engaged in a capital campaign that will support opportunities for individual and foundation engagement and support. “We are ecstatic that our lending partners have made the building a reality and look to forming new partnerships as we move forward in realizing our vision. So many organizations in the greater Cleveland region believe in the importance of education and we are looking forward to strengthening our philanthropic relationships around this opportunity.” said Harrison.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MPA Leadership with OFCC Representatives
We are thrilled to share some additional information regarding progress with our new school building and the recent grant award from Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC)! While we were certainly excited to be one of the first recipients of grant from this program, it does increase the complicated nature of our financing package. In order for us to determine the best path forward, about fifteen members of our finance and legal teams met with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (who traveled up from Columbus) on September 7th to confirm that the grant award is in alignment with our complicated financial plan for the construction, most importantly the millions of dollars in tax credits. The OFCC is very excited about our project and we were happy to learn that they are indeed flexible in terms of our plan’s compatibility with their expectations. While the addition of these funds adds some additional work and time to our progress, it will provide a boost to the overall package that will allow us to achieve more of what we envisioned for the final product in the building. This was a great meeting and a huge affirmation to receive their approval.

From there, the group went to view the new building. Everyone envisioned together with excitement our transformation of the space into the premier 21st-century learning facility in the greater Cleveland area and beyond. We are working through the final details of the grant agreement to make sure the agreement gets in front of the State Controlling Board next month - thereby not impacting our schedule..

Good news all around! Stay tuned for more updates.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

MPA Facility Update
April 2016

As we enter into the 3rd trimester of the school year, we are already so proud of the amazing achievements and wonderful events that have taken place within our community.  Our students have been proudly participating and often earning placements in Math Competitions, Chess Tournaments, Power of the Pen, Destination Imagination, National History Day, Science Fair, and Invention Convention. We have watched our wonderfully talented students showcased in the choir and band concerts, 3rd grade play, and 7/8th grade in The Dust Bowl Museum, the culminating activity in reading “The Grapes of Wrath”. The 5/6th grade social studies classes are enthusiastically receiving responses to their letters written to local government officials, as well as the President of the United States. (Look for the framed letter and pictures, outside of Mrs Veccia’s office.) We look forward to what amazing activities the 3rd trimester holds for us!

While the temperature has been fluctuating and the flowers don’t know if they should bloom now or wait, your Board of Directors is continuing to move forward with our plans for MPA’s new campus site.

Next School Year
Let’s get the answer to the question we know is on everybody’s mind – have we finalized the sublease agreement to remain in our current building next year? We are glad to be able to share that the Board approved executing the sublease agreement at its last regular meeting. This is a one-year agreement that will allow us to remain at our current location next school year. Both the St. Mel Parish and Cleveland Catholic diocese made this exception (they are not typically supportive of sublease arrangements) based on MPA’s strong positive relationship with the parish. While there are additional final signatures and processes that will need to take place, we are confident with the intentions of all parties and are making plans accordingly for the summer and next school year.

We continue to work with our financial consultant and a team of lenders who are all working diligently to get this project closed. There are now 6 different lenders involved – 2 mission-focused lenders, 2 traditional banks (tax credit investor and county loan investor), Cuyahoga County, and the Community Development Entity (CDE) who chose our project for a New Market Tax Credit allocation. We recently attended a board meeting where the county loan was approved and received a term sheet from one of the traditional banks. Our project is on the agenda for upcoming credit committee meetings for the other lenders.

Since the last update we received bid proposals from several builders. Our Board selected Geis Construction, and they have been engaged in a value engineering process for several weeks now. The goal is to get the project costs aligned with the budget. This process is estimated to be complete in the next week or two and will enable the lenders to include that information in their proposals to their respective credit committees.

Funding Opportunities
Progress has been made in several areas for additional funding opportunities.
1.           Charter School Facilities Grant (CSFG). The 2014-15 report cards are available and we are happy to say that our scores demonstrate that we qualify for this opportunity. This is a matching grant, so we will need to show our part if we are awarded. We will keep you apprised on the progress towards our application.
2.           State Historic Tax Credits (SHTC). We have resubmitted the application for the SHTC. We are hopeful that the third time's a charm! The announcement of the approved projects are anticipated by the end of June.
3.           Ohio Capital Bill/Partnership with CSU.  This is moving forward but the timing is further off.

Remember, while all of these possibilities are exciting, none of them are included in the current funding model.  Success on any of them will be a bonus and allow us to further outfit the building and complete more spaces.

Upcoming Community Forum
The next Community Meeting will be Monday, April 25th, 6:30-8:00 p.m. in the Cafetorium. Updates on the new facility, summer activities and the upcoming school year will be provided.

Engage in THIS MOMENT– Build It, Fill It, and Pay For It
Our volunteer committee members and staff have made amazing progress on all fronts. If you have not yet found a way to engage, please reach out to our volunteer Project Manager, Melissa Vlasak, who can connect you. The three main areas are:
1)          Build it - Facility Expansion Committee (FEC), Fraser Hamilton, Chair
            Our next FEC meeting is Thursday, April 7th, from 6:30 - 8:00pm at the school.
2)          Fill it - Jennifer Ingraham, Marketing & Admissions Coordinator
            We are looking to expand our Volunteer Marketing Committee with anyone that has a marketing background. We need the Creative, Planning, and Executing type of people involved with branding, marketing, social media, and the website.
3)          Pay for it - Development & Community Relations Committee, Amanda Ross, Chair & Kelly Nelson, Capital Campaign Chair
            The Capital Campaign has been kicked off to the Board of Directors. Keep an eye out for details on how you can participate at the ground floor of this critical effort. More information to come soon!

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to MPA. Our community is the driving force behind all of our efforts. We simply cannot do it without you.