The Jewish community’s newest option for assisted living, Berman Commons, has opened next door to the Marcus Jewish Community Center’s Dunwoody campus.
Berman Commons, which held its grand opening March 8, has been in the works since 2007 on the original site of the Weber School across Womack Road from Georgia Perimeter College. Shari Bayer, the marketing director for the Jewish Home Life Community, said the recession that hit in 2008 delayed the project, and by the time the real estate market had recovered enough to make it feasible again in 2010, the city of Dunwoody had incorporated.
The project had to go back through the zoning and planning process, and the plans had to be tweaked to address the differences between Dunwoody and DeKalb County land use rules. For example, Bayer said, the building had to be farther from Womack Road to allow room for a sidewalk, and the gabled roof had to be changed to a faux-gable roof to fit within new height limits. Construction then took about 15 months.
Berman Commons is named for Stephen Berman, founder and managing partner of accounting firm Stephen M. Berman and Associates and former board chairman of Jewish Home Life Communities.The third-floor porch provides a safe space for memory-care residents to enjoy the outdoors.
“Buildings like this are named after those who give the big bucks. Certainly my family is not indigent, but we are not wealthy by the standards of those who have buildings and edifices named after them. But I know, and my family knows, that I will die a rich man, for I have attempted to help the lives of those less fortunate,” Berman said in a speech at the dedication March 8.
He credited mentors Erwin Zaban, Milton Weinstein, Meyer Balser, Bill Breman, Sidney Feldman, and Betty and Harvey Jacobson for teaching him the value of community service. “My legacy will not be measured by my name but rather by my ability to impart the lessons taught to me by my mentors to those who come after me as we face the challenges of the elderly.”
The three-story building offers 58 assisted-living apartments — 51 one-bedroom and seven studio units — and 32 memory-care studio apartments. Bayer said 95 percent of the assisted-living units and one-third of the memory-care units have been leased.
While the luxury community is open to anyone, it is aimed at Jewish residents. The interior decorations feature Jewish items such as menorahs and Chagall prints. Sugarman Hall, the assembly hall on the eastern end of the building, doubles as a synagogue sanctuary with a built-in nook for an ark and stained-glass artist Gary Saban’s depictions of the Star of David and the 12 tribes of Israel.
The facility includes such amenities as a beauty parlor, a physical therapy room, a baby grand player piano, and multiple dining rooms and common areas. The garden space behind the building includes a waterfall and a patio and backs up to the JCC’s athletic fields. Residents of memory care on the third floor can watch the action on the fields from an outdoor, protected porch.
Residents get membership in the JCC, which is accessible by a path from Berman Commons.The main dining room provides a view of the waterfall in the terraced gardens.
Life at the facility includes three restaurant-style meals and snacks each day, and executive chef Edward Kraitman, formerly of the Renaissance and the Ritz-Carlton, is determined to adapt to the needs and desires of each resident. The menus operate on a five-week cycle, so residents will get different lunches and dinners each day for five weeks.
“We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” Kraitman said.
Family members and friends are welcome to join residents for meals for the price of $7 for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $13 for dinner.
The kitchens maintain strict kosher standards under experienced mashgiach Fred Glusman, former executive director of Congregation Beth Jacob, although the facility is not certified by the Atlanta Kashruth Commission. Glusman said he and AKC head Rabbi Reuven Stein are trying to resolve the certification issue.
Pricing is based on the unit size and one of three levels of care, reassessed on a point system each quarter. The total is in the range of $4,000 to $7,000 per month.
Berman Commons is at 2026 Womack Road.Sugarman Hall will serve as a synagogue sanctuary as well as an assembly space.