2nd company interested in landing facility in Gibson City

GIBSON CITY — At the second meeting of the city council-appointed Assisted Living Committee, another developer showed interest in locating an adult community facility in Gibson City.

Committee Chairman Chuck Aubry and six other members of the 11-member committee welcomed the three active partners of JFG Development during a public meeting on April 4.  The partnership operates the 32-unit Autumn Fields facility in Hoopeston.

The company’s principals are Bill Geis, the facility’s executive director; Bill Fricke, chief executive officer; and Roger Jackson, construction manager.

The group has a varied background. Geis has a master’s degree in gerontology — the study of the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging — while Fricke operates construction and commodities interests, and Jackson owns Jackson Quality Construction of Mahomet.

Fricke said there is also a fourth female investment partner who has 20 years experience with adult senior living.

Jackson’s company built the Bridle Brook facility of Mahomet, although he is not an investor in that facility. He said the Autumn Field’s building is “every bit as nice if not nicer” than Bridle Brook which is considered an upscale facility.

The Hoopeston facility is JFG’s first location, but Fricke said the group is interested in three or four more locations. He said the fact that Gibson City is actively seeking a senior living facility, “definitely piqued our interest.”

He also indicated finding investors and financing would not be something the group would need city assistance to fulfill.

However, he termed Gibson City’s  market as “relatively small” and “marginal,” even when considering the surrounding area. “Not that many people make (this type of) life-changing decision every month,” Fricke noted.

He explained that the Hoopeston facility opened in October 2012 but has only a 44 percent occupancy rate, despite the fact that Hoopeston’s population is 5,400 and Autumn Fields is the only assisted living facility in a 20-mile radius. He also said the average stay in an assisted living facility is 26 months.

Thus, the group believes that it takes independent living units in addition to assisted living units to make a facility viable. Even with both, Fricke estimated it would take a year or more to reach capacity.

The addition of independent living units is a feature that differs from the plan proposed by the group who presented at the committee’s first meeting on March 26. This feature interested at least four members of the community who were present to ask questions about the independent living option.

Autumn Fields of Hoopeston has a kitchenette but no oven, even in its independent living units.

“I would think an independent living person would want full kitchen facilities,” said Gibson City resident Jean Williams.

The group is especially proud of the sunny, southern-facing great room at the Hoopeston facility that features a baby grand piano and fireplace. The great room faces a patio and Fricke said the southern exposure is a real benefit.

Other highlights according to Gries are the on-premises home cooking of all food (including bread and pies) and the variety of activities, especially those involving inter-generational activities. He said the great room was a favorite prom photo site. They also encourage local groups to use the community area for meetings.

JPG Development has looked at three properties in Gibson City and is interested in a 7- to 8-acre site, as was the Monticello-based firm. The Hoopeston facility is currently occupying 4 acres of its 7-acre site.

The locations being considered are the field east of County Market, the Railside Estates property north of Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Middle School, and an area to the north of Falcon Pointe Subdivision on the city’s west side.

Having property located in a tax-increment financing (TIF) district is a must for the group.

“I really believe it’s going to take TIF money to do this,” Fricke said.

As part of the TIF arrangement in Hoopeston, the firm received a $940,000 incentive toward property tax abatement. Fricke said his firm will pay the taxes up front and be reimbursed by the city for up to 95 percent of the bill until the funds are used up during the remaining 10-year life of that  TIF district. He said taxes on a $3 million facility could be as much as $100,000 per year.

Another part of that agreement was a promise to hire a minimum of 15 people, a goal the group has already met.

Aubry noted that one of the three properties under consideration — the field east of County Market — is currently not in a TIF. Mayor Dan Dickey was present and said he will work explore TIF options with developers.

The monthly base rates for Autumn Fields range from $2,500 for a studio apartment to $3,950 for a 2-bedroom apartment. There is a $750 monthly fee for a spouse or additional person in the unit.

In addition, level fees for personal care range from $250 to $1,500 per month, are based on an assessment of care needed which is determined by a point system.
Committee member Mary Timm, along with other committee members, remained positive about the potential of the Gibson City market and what it has to offer.

Timm assured the group that she has seen “a lot of enthusiasm for (a senior facility) in the last few weeks.” She said attracting a senior living facility “is something the mayor and I have been working on for a couple of years.”

The group said that getting an option on property would be their next step along with the TIF agreement. Acquiring both would mean the group “is ready to go,” Fricke said.


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