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Real Estate Solutions School

How Concordia Lutheran High School is Reimagining the Future for Students

Students at Concordia Lutheran settle in for the day before classes start.

In the spring of 2022, Jacob Pennekamp walked the halls of Concordia Lutheran High School (CLHS) in Fort Wayne, Ind., with Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) President and CEO Bart Day. Pennekamp had recently accepted a call to be the Head of School at CLHS.

As they talked, he shared his vision for the school and the opportunities he saw. But they also discussed the challenges a school blessed with a 1963-era building faced.

This cannot wait
CLHS grapples with deferred maintenance such as roof repairs, an outdated HVAC system and necessary building updates.

“While our maintenance staff has kept the building presentable and functional, it’s now cost-prohibitive to continue this way due to looming expenses,” Pennekamp said.

School leaders faced a daunting maintenance list but needed a clear starting point. Meanwhile, the last major update at CLHS was 30 years ago, leaving education and technology needs to be unmet.

It was time for an upgrade.

As Pennekamp outlined the situation on the tour in 2022, Day shared a new offering from LCEF’s Real Estate Solutions. This service would assist Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) ministries in identifying an exhaustive list of deferred maintenance needs and provide opportunities to update and upgrade a facility while addressing maintenance issues.

“As Bart described the services that they would be able to provide, it felt like it was a perfect fit for us,” Pennekamp said.

A student is immersed in the joy of reading, embodying the school's dedication to academic excellence and intellectual growth.

The diploma with clout
CLHS has served the Fort Wayne community since 1935. It is the only Lutheran high school in an area rich with Lutheran heritage.

“There is a very high level of respect and prestige that goes along with the diploma from Concordia Lutheran High School,” said Matt Konow, who graduated from CLHS in 1991. He now serves as the school’s chief advancement officer.

“I know as a young man that when I filled out a job application, and they saw that I was a student at Concordia, they would say, ‘If you’re as diligent as the other Concordia students that we’ve had work here, then you’ll have no problem.’ Having a Concordia diploma means something.”

The critical moment
That said, enrollment at CLHS has trended downward over the last several years, a trend exasperated by COVID-19, which resulted in historic lows.

However, Pennekamp is optimistic about the future based on the growth of first-year classes in the last two years, including the 2023-2024 first-year class with 195 students. They project to climb to over 710 for the 2025–2026 term.

Anticipating growth and a forthcoming renovation, leaders aim to modernize classrooms and educational spaces to serve the ministry for the next 30-40 years. υ

“This is a very critical moment,” Pennekamp said, “for us to not just fix things for tomorrow, but to be thinking 30 to 40 years in advance and make sure what we’re designing right now to have longevity [as a school].”

LCEF is very blessed to be a part of the Concordia legacy. This is an iconic school and for us to be a part of that— to help a brother— is truly a blessing.”

— Thomas Campbell
Senior Vice President, Real Estate Solution

One team, one goal
Under the leadership of Senior Vice President Thomas Campbell, LCEF’s Real Estate Solutions (RES) team assessed CLHS’s needs, providing a roadmap that included essential repairs and renovations.

RES assessed bids from contractors and architects using quantifiable criteria. Pennekamp formed a steering committee comprising CLHS supporters with expertise in various fields.

“LCEF has brought expertise and helped navigate the process by thinking outside the box to arrive at new solutions,” said Carrie Gutman, Gutman, a former CLHS Board member and parent of three alumni. “It would have been tough to make this much progress without them and would certainly not have moved as quickly.”

A student participates in an experiment in science class at CLHS.

What can be done
RES then worked with the steering committee, an advisory committee of faculty and staff, and the design firm to compare the school’s curriculum and programming with the building, classrooms and other amenities. The goal was to prepare the classrooms for future advancements while also seeking logical renovations that eliminated the need for some maintenance costs.

RES created a financial workbook with the CLHS team, incorporating the estimates for the project, including hard and soft cost capital expenditures and operating expenses. This ultimately led loan sizing and fundraising goals.

“LCEF has been an outstanding strategic partner thus far,” said Tom Ackmann, a CLHS Board member and parent of two alumni. “By bringing together a variety of experts well versed in planning and executing construction projects like this, we have been able to explore considerations and options that might have fallen outside the scope at this early phase of the process.”

Journey of progress and innovation
With a clear vision, a dedicated team and the support of LCEF, CLHS is now poised to embark on a transformative journey. As the school continues to explore undertaking the renovations and repairs shaping its future, it does so with a profound sense of purpose and gratitude.

“LCEF is very blessed to be a part of the Concordia legacy,” Campbell said. “This is an iconic school, and for us to be a part of that—to help a brother—is truly a blessing.”

“CLHS is exploring a creative solution to address their current facility needs by taking a step back, looking at it from a strategic and growth perspective, and re-imagining the space to create a better standard in educational facilities.”

Konow commended LCEF’s innovative approach, saying, “I’ve worked with financial lending institutions in the past, but not ones that I would say are innovative. And I find Tom, the LCEF team and the services they can provide are very innovative. They know the questions to ask. They’re excellent owners’ reps, and I feel like they have our back and are acting in our best interests.”

With the partnership between CLHS and LCEF firmly established, the next steps in the journey are poised to be filled with progress and transformation.

The Concordia community eagerly awaits the moment when the renovations and repairs begin, knowing that these endeavors will address immediate needs and lay the foundation for a vibrant, thriving and enduring future for Concordia Lutheran High School and the Fort Wayne community it serves.