Grand opening of Fairview Village celebrated

Congressman Jim Gerlach cuts the ribbon at the Fairview Village grand opening celebration on August 7. Among those with Gerlach are (front L to R) Pat Bokovitz - Director of the Chester County Department of Community Development, Jackie Emery of the Remington Group (white dress), Holly Glauser - Director of Development for the PA Finance Housing Agency and Dennis Bellingtier of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Staff photo by J. Finneran

Donna Harris was among the special guests invited to the grand opening ceremony for the new Fairview Village community on north side Phoenixville on the afternoon of August 7, and although she was invited to speak to the attendees she kindly deferred, because she knew that she would not have been able to hold back her tears of joy.

Harris is one of the new residents at Fairview Village, the low-income housing development that has replaced 25 low-income residences demolished in 2012, and the new home that she and her five year old daughter, Annalese Donnelly, moved in to on July 24 is, in her words, “unbelievable”.

“When they gave me the key I cried, I cried. I needed the whole tissue box… …and when I saw the place I lost it. Today, still, I was wiping tears away through the whole ceremony because it is such a blessing. It is unbelievable. This is the most beautiful place I have ever lived in, and I just cannot believe that this is happening to me and my daughter. I have met some of the neighbors down the street and they said this is a great place to raise your kid. Everybody has been great and it is just awesome.”

Fairview Village was developed by Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties, LLC, and will be managed by Pennrose Management Company. Also contributing to the creation of Fairview Village were Harkins Builders (general contractor), The Knabb Partnership (architect) and T&M Associates (engineer). Fairview Village is owned by the Housing Authority of Chester County.

Primary funding for the $10.6 million Fairview Village came from the syndication of tax credits invested by Nationwide Insurance, which contributed $7 million of the cost. Over $3 million came from replacement housing funds, and the remaining balance was sourced from HealthChoices reinvestment funds from Chester County, according to a press release.

A tour of the new homes at Fairview Village revealed modern floor plans with features including laminate flooring, energy efficient appliances, and central heating/air conditioning. The village consists of six one-bedroom units, 15 two-bedroom units, 13 three-bedroom units, and two four-bedroom units. Four of the 36 units are handicap accessible and one of the units was designed for those with hearing/visual impairments.

Among the many delighted individuals who attended the ceremony and ribbon cutting which opened Fairview Village on Wednesday afternoon were current and potential Fairview Village residents, employees of local, state and federal government, and employees of the private firms which designed and built the new neighborhood.

Included in those who took the lectern to share thoughts, thanks, congratulations and well-wishes during the ceremony were Phoenixville Mayor Leo J. Scoda, Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA 6th District), and President of Pennrose Properties Mark H. Dambly.

Dale P. Gravett, the Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Chester County, offered the introduction and served as the master of ceremony. The invocation which followed Gravett’s introduction was given by Reverend Nathaniel Coleman, Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, which is located on Fairview Road next to the entrance of Fairview Village.

Congressman Gerlach, who is a big proponent of the low income housing tax credit program that made construction of Fairview Village possible, was the first guest speaker to offer remarks.

“What a terrific transformation has occurred on this property. It’s just a beautiful residential development… … (I) want to say thank you on behalf of the 700,000 people I represent from the 6th congressional district. I want to thank all the partners, from Pennrose who managed this, to the Housing Authority that oversaw the project, to the County Developmental Office who was so instrumental in pulling the partners together, and all of the community leaders like the mayor and all those here in Phoenixville.”

Mayor Scoda began his remarks by reflecting on how fortunate he feels to be the Mayor of Phoenixville in a time where great changes, such as the opening of Fairview Village, have taken place.

“There are so many things that have happened here in the community, especially in this area of town, on the North Side… …the old housing development (that was) here was not the nicest thing to look at. There were a lot of problems socially and in other areas that we were dealing with all the time, and to see this happen, the changes here with the types of housing is just so nice and it is a great addition to the borough of Phoenixville.”

He closed by addressing the Fairview Village residents.

“To the people who are here who have already moved in, welcome to Phoenixville, and I think that what you are going to find is that you are going to be a community within the larger community of Phoenixville, because Phoenixville has that reputation (where people) help each other out.”

Next to follow Mayor Scoda was Pennrose Property President Mark H. Dambly, who gave heartfelt thanks many times over to the multiple individuals and organizations who brought the Fairview Village vision to reality.

“I really appreciate, on behalf of my partners and all of the employees at Pennrose, the opportunity to be here, the opportunity to revitalize this community.”

Damby also took a few minutes to speak to the importance of the federal tax credit program, which he said brings hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars annually into the U.S. economy. He then encouraged everyone to contact their legislators – such as U.S. Senator Pat Toomey - and encouraged them to advocate for the program’s renewal as they look to rewrite the tax code.

The ceremony came to a close with a ribbon cutting ceremony led by Congressman Gerlach. Following the ceremony, attendees remained to socialize and enjoy refreshments.

Kyle Speece, a Development Officer with Pennrose who had a major hand in managing financing and the budget for the project and also oversaw the architect, engineer and builders, and other professionals involved in building Fairview Village, shared the following:

“This a successful demonstration of what public and private partnerships can achieve. A lot of housing in the United States is funded by the low income housing credit, which is a great opportunity to bring private monies, in this case Nationwide Insurance Company, into public purpose development. It is awesome to see new residents who are moving in, who are taking pride in their home, and who are going to live here for many years and raise families here. That is very fulfilling for all of us.”

Pat Bokovitz, Director of the Chester County Department of Community Development and a board member of the Chester County Housing Authority, reflected upon the transformation which had taken place in the neighborhood.

“The 25 units that were here before were not in the greatest condition, and to see what is here now – brand new fantastically designed homes – we just couldn’t be happier. I am very pleased and excited for the residents that are moving in. I heard comments from neighbors today who said ‘great job, we are happy to see it’ and that is very positive and very rewarding.”

For more information on Fairview Village visit www.pennrose.com/properties/fairview-village

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