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.