Champaign resident Brian Adams thought he had found the perfect home at Inman Place for his father Kenneth Adams, 91, in 2020.
However, when Royse and Brinkmeyer, a ”resident-focused, community-involved property management company” acquired the Inman building at 17 E University Avenue in 2022, families like the Adams noticed the rapid disappearance of essential services.
“Everything had changed,” Brian Adams said. “Everything.”
Three years after moving in, Kenneth had to move out of the Inman, a historic hotel built in 1915. Despite promises the new owners made that “nothing would change,” the disappearance of senior services like medication reminders and emergency staff made it difficult for many senior residents to stay.
His father was one of about 30 residents who had to deal with the dramatic changes in living at the Inman. After the sale, over half of the residents left, according to Royse and Brinkmeyer CEO Collin Carlier, who said the economics of running the building forced the changes to be made.
For those who stayed, the challenge was to replace the services that initially drew them to the building. Several staff members who had worked there for years said they were terminated shortly after the sale. Carlier said several positions were duplicates of positions Royse and Brinkmeyer already had.
“There were cases where we didn’t have a job and we just had to say that,” Carlier said.
“The family aspect of it was gone,” a former staff member said. “[It was] like this is a business and this is how we’re going to conduct it. And if you don’t like it, then you can go.”
The staff member asked not to be identified because of fear that their new employer might view them as a troublemaker.
But the choice to change the Inman to a more traditional apartment building and end the senior services came down to economics, Carlier said.
“The more we learned, we felt like the only way we could bring the building back to viability was to make it all ages,” Carlier said.
Many residents said they wished the new owners would have tried to figure out a way to make the building profitable as an independent senior community.
“They just didn’t give it a chance to continue as it was,” Pam Lindell, a current resident at the Inman, said. Lindell moved into the Inman in 2016 and stayed through the change in ownership.
The biggest change for Lindell was the loss of free transportation offered by the building. Before 2022, residents could take a bus for free wherever they needed to go. For Lindell, that was mainly doctor’s appointments.
Now, she has to pay $1 per minute to use the transportation. Going to an appointment at Carle at the Fields, where she often goes, costs around $60 round trip — double the typical cost of an Uber.
In 2024, Collier said, the Inman will cease its meal service.
“Nothing else like it”
When Brian Adams decided to move his father to Champaign, he knew it wasn’t going to be easy. His father Kenneth didn’t want to live in an “old folks home.”
But Kenneth Adams immediately felt at home at the Inman. The independent living center housed around 30 seniors in the historic building’s spacious apartments — including a history of visits of historical figures from Eleanor Roosevelt to Al Capone.
After he moved in February of 2020, Kenneth made friends in the dining room, bantered with the Inman’s bus driver (a fellow New York native) and went to lunch at downtown restaurants.
“He felt at home there,” Jane, Brian’s wife, said. “He always talked about ‘My room at the Inman, my friends that I met from the same area.’ Now, he doesn’t talk about anybody.”
Brickyard Bank, based in Lincolnwood, Illinois, acquired the building during a foreclosure on the building in 2010. The next year, the new owners opened the building as Inman Place — an independent senior living property. Indirect control of Brickyard Bank was transferred to the Rothners in 2020, according to a notice from the Federal Reserve System.
The former owner, William “Avi” Rothner, and his father Eric, have owned and operated skilled nursing facilities throughout the state of Illinois — many of which have been closed due to accumulated record numbers of citations and inspections that found COVID-19 outbreaks and abuse and mistreatment of residents.
The state regulates assisted living facilities and requires mandatory services including three daily meals, housekeeping, laundry, security and assistance with daily living. Independent living facilities for seniors are not regulated by the state and merely require residents to be over the age of 55, according to Cindy Johnson, the former marketing director of the Inman.
But the Inman was different. As a private, independent senior center, it did not receive government funding and wasn’t subject to state inspections or regulation.
It was also cheaper than many assisted living facilities — where the average price is $4,163 per month in Champaign. On average, residents and their families paid between $2,300 and $3,100 for an apartment.
So, families, residents and staff created their own independent living center that catered to their needs, Gale Walden said, whose father was a resident during the sale of the building back in 2022. That business model appealed to her because it was less expensive than traditional assisted living centers and allowed her to mix and match the care her father needed.
“They were not under as many state requirements, [so] they had more freedom to do things so we created our own assisted living,” Walden said.
Her father died shortly after the sale and change in ownership of the Inman. She said the stress of having to relocate was extremely difficult for him.
“It wasn’t expected for him to go downhill, and there wasn’t really a cause of death,” Walden said. “I think he just gave up.”
Promises of no changes
When the new owners took over in September of 2022, they hosted an informational session with current residents and their families. Brian Adams and Gale Walden said the new owners, Royse and Brinkmeyer, told residents and their families that nothing would change.
But over the next few months, residents and their families had to email and set up private meetings to understand exactly how the change would impact them, Adams said. Ultimately, many families discovered there would be changes — meaning many of them couldn’t stay.
Attendees were told, Adams said, that meal services, rent prices and current services wouldn’t change.
“I’m growing more concerned about how new ownership of the Inman building will affect my father’s quality of life,” Adams wrote in an email to another resident’s caretaker in 2022. “The new owners are so vague about the future of the building and current residents; I’m not sure he will be able to remain a resident.”
Although the new owners said there would be no changes in staffing, Adams said, the new owners eliminated at least two former staff members. And, despite promises that rent and leases would remain the same, the a-la-carte leases Royse and Brinkmeyer offered to current residents to retain their current services were higher than their past rent, Adams said.
Carlier disputed that this month, saying no promises were made that things wouldn’t change at the town halls Royse and Brinkmeyer hosted. At the initial sessions, he said the new owners were trying to listen to residents and their families while working to figure out what the future of the building would be.
“We tried to state, in the simplest words possible, that we had no specific plans for change to announce at that meeting,” Carlier wrote in an email. “As soon as decisions were made, we would report changes to residents immediately.”
The new owners also changed the food service from a full restaurant in the building to pre-packaged, catered meals. The most difficult change for many residents and their families was the loss of 24/7 staff and medication reminders, which ensured residents had help in case of a medical emergency.
“We felt like it was going to be easy for us to look like the bad guy in that,” Carlier said of getting rid of medication reminders. “But the building does not have the licensing, to be involved in medication, even reminders.”
New ownership should have been more upfront about the changes they were planning to roll out so families would have had more time to prepare, Cindy Johnson, the former marketing director for Inman, said.
“They didn’t want to have this mass exit,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, people needed to know so they could prepare.”
Carlier said the company “truly didn’t know” what the plan was when it purchased the building. But Carlier said it was forthcoming when it made the decisions to reduce senior services and make the building all-ages.
“We just tried to be very upfront and say here are some things that we don’t think we can responsibly do; and here are the things that we do think we can responsibly do so that way [residents] can make an informed choice either whatever they decided,” Carlier said.
The changes to the operations at the Inman disrupted residents’ routines and forced many of them to find new housing — either in alternative senior living facilities or with family. Johnson said being forced to relocate to new homes and facilities is extremely difficult for seniors.
“Do you not realize that these are people’s homes?” Johnson asked of the new owners of the Inman. “They’ve lived here for many years.”
As Collier acknowledged, half of the residents left — and all tried to find alternative housing at the same time. This made it difficult for some families, like the Adams, to find a spot for their family members in assisted living facilities. Although these facilities had many of the resources that the Inman did, many of the buildings were more isolated and farther outside of town.
Ultimately, the Adams were able to snag the last vacant apartment at the Windsor of Savoy. Although it wasn’t where Kenneth wanted to go, the Adams said there wasn’t anywhere else they could find.
Kenneth was hesitant about moving to Windsor because of the label of being for “old people.” His new room is also narrow — which has caused him to fall several times.
“I think he kind of felt like he didn’t have any choice,” Jane Adams said.
Continued loss of services
In January 2024, Royse and Brinkmeyer will eliminate the catered meal service, Carlier said. Former and current residents said that for many seniors, these meals are essential.
“We don’t think we can operate this restaurant long term, there’s just not enough volume,” Carlier said. “There’s not enough for us to keep the bills paid.”
None of the apartments have a full kitchen. Instead, residents have a small refrigerator and are allowed to have a toaster oven in their apartments. There are communal kitchens throughout the building.
This continued reduction of services makes it harder for seniors to justify staying, current residents said. Former marketing director Johnson said she knew the new ownership was not interested in continuing care for seniors.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be stoppable because they already told me what their vision was and their vision was not senior living,” Johnson said.
The loss of senior services in Champaign County has been largely driven by companies in search of profit, Champaign County Health Care Consumers Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff said.
Although financial sustainability is a valid concern, Lennhoff said she’d like to see more owners that acquire senior living facilities explore ways to continue to serve seniors while making a profit.
But, putting profit over people isn’t the way forward, Lennhoff said.
“It leaves people with certain needs at the mercy of the market and operators who are coming in and who see not an opportunity to serve, but a profit,” she said.