A Place for Us
National Model for Diverse and Inclusive Senior Housing
A Place for Us, a Cleveland apartment serving a diverse and inclusive clientele over 55 years old, opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony late in 2016.
But the concept for the diverse new LGBT-inclusive senior housing facility, located at the border of Cleveland and Lakewood, goes back some 20 years, when Linda Krasienko, President of A Place for Us Development, wondered what would become of her and her partner should they ever require something other than traditional living accommodations.
The answer at the time, Krasienko discovered, was that they would have few, if any options for remaining together in an independent setting. Working as a full-time occupational therapy assistant who frequently assisted patients in nursing-home settings, Krasienko vowed to find a way to change that.
“I asked questions off the record about whether my partner and I would be able to live together if we weren’t in our own housing, and then I did some additional research,” Krasienko says. “I called the state of Ohio and asked if any same-sex housing situations existed, and I was told no. But they thought it was a great idea.”
Armed with that idea and a determined attitude, Krasienko embarked on a two-decades-long pursuit of creating a space welcoming an inclusive, aging clientele and providing the services they would need as they advanced in age.
Along the way, she encountered formidable challenges, beginning with figuring out how to secure funding for a unique project that would provide supportive services beyond that of a typical apartment complex, including an on-site health clinic offering HIV testing, support groups, a fitness center and a community room.
“I worked with some really good people along the way who were very earnest and wanted to help, but we just didn’t know how to raise the money,” Krasienko says. “Almost everyone I spoke with about funding just wanted to build apartments. I wanted those additional services available to residents. I learned that it’s hard enough to build residential projects without any additional access and living space. But what made the difference for me were the services and an interface-type setting.”
The turning point for the project came about three years ago, Krasienko says, when she was introduced to Aaron Pechota, Senior Vice President, Development, for The NRP Group, an acclaimed developer with offices in six states, including one in Cleveland.
Pechota “made it a point to sit down with me and understand what my mission was,” Krasienko says. “He saw beyond the dollar signs and saw something he believed someone would be willing to take a risk on, and he got behind it. In Aaron, we had someone who wanted to support the mission and build high-quality, affordable living space with the backing of the state of Ohio.”
Krasienko, with Pechota’s guidance, then found the monetary support the senior housing project required from KeyBank, which provided financing for what became a $9 million community investment developed, built and managed by NRP Group and located on Madison Avenue in Cleveland’s west-side Highland Square neighborhood.
"Through our Community Development Lending platform, we have made it our goal to finance projects that stabilize and revitalize communities, allowing the neighborhoods where we live and work to flourish,” Kip Clarke, KeyBank’s Cleveland Market President, said before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, held on Dec. 2 at the complex. “A Place for Us answers a need in the community to provide inclusive housing solutions. We’re proud to partner with NRP on this progressive initiative.”
A Place for Us is designed to accommodate about 55 residents, says Krasienko, adding that applications were brisk throughout the fall and that she expected the complex to be at full capacity early in 2017.
Reaction from residents and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive, and sometimes emotional, she said.
“I’ve had people crying when they see the place for the first time,” she says. “They’ve come up to me and thanked me personally; they’ve been wondering if something like A Place for Us would ever happen.”
That it finally did become a reality is something Krasienko still finds herself coming to terms with now, even as residents settle into their new community, one that offers spacious one- and two-bedroom apartment homes with fully-equipped kitchens in a setting whose amenities also include a library, computer center and lush garden terrace designed to host group activities.
“So many people have been willing to support me in this, step up and take the risks that were going to be necessary to make it become a reality,” Krasienko says. “To see it finally open and to meet residents moving in, it’s something that for a long time I thought might not be possible. I feel like I’m living in a dream.”
Learn more about how A Place for Us supports the Cleveland community and provides inclusive LGBT housing assistance.