PHOENIXVILLE — Thanks to replacement housing funds, a tax credit investment and county funding along with many people working together for the greater good, a deteriorated public housing development will undergo a transformation.
Demolition for Fairview Village on the north side of town started about two weeks ago. Partners of the project joined together to celebrate the $10.8 million redevelopment project during a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday.
The redevelopment for Fairview Village includes 36 units low-income housing for families which will be a mixture of one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom units. For 25 of the units, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide a rent subsidy, according to a press release.
Residents living in the previous development were relocated and will be able to move back in if they meet the qualifications.
People involved in the project said redevelopment has been a long time coming. The construction will begin shortly after the demolition process is finished and is expected to be completed in fall 2013.
Housing Authority of Chester County Executive Director Dale P. Gravett said he estimates the process began about eight years ago.
The funding for the project is being made possible from $3.18 million is coming from replacement housing funds, a tax credit investment of $7.1 million and Chester County Funding from Health Choices Reinvestment of $535,000, according to a press release.
The groundbreaking ceremony featured remarks from various partners involved including Pat Bokovitz, director of the Chester County Department of Community Development; Ryan Costello, Chester County commissioner; Phoenixville Mayor Leo J. Scoda; Jane C. W. Vincent, Region III administrator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Jackie Emery, vice president, senior project manager of the Remington Group; Barbara Stephens, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency public affairs manager; Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6th District) and Mark H. Dambly, president of Pennrose Properties, LLC.
HACC got the ball rolling with the project years ago with its idea to redevelop Fairview Village. Gravett explained demolition and redevelopment had occurred in Coatesville for Hope 6 and money was generated from HUD. The replacement funds must be reinvested within so many years or they are lost.
Since the housing authority already owned Fairview Village, it was a good time and a good opportunity to spend the funds there, Gravett said.
The project didn’t come together overnight. It was a long process with securing funding and getting approval from Phoenixville Borough.
According to Kyle H. Speece, development officer, Pennrose Properties, developer for the project, the project didn’t receive funding from PHFA on the first attempt because it’s very competitive to secure.
A zoning amendment had to be approved by the borough to increase density at the location, according to a project press release.
Final approval for the plan came in the spring of 2012 and the low income housing tax credit was approved in April 2012.
Bokovitz, wearing two hats with the project, chairman of the board for HACC and director of CCDCD, recognized a former chairman of the HACC board in attendance, Donald J. L. Coppedge, for his communication with stakeholders of the community, including borough officials, the community garden caretakers, neighbors and other community members.
“To have someone like Don, not just send out a press release or fax or something of that nature, but actually to sit down and talk with community members and to get an understanding of their concerns was extremely important to the success of this project.” Bokovitz said.
He said the partners involved were motivated for the project because of the condition of the housing that was there before.
“This is a solution,” Bokovitz said.
Bokovitz introduced Costello and said he has been very supportive of affordable housing projects in the county.
Costello praised the Phoenixville community for wanting it to be a better place and its “success stories” of revitalization.
“Phoenixville has a lot of pride in its people and its known for caring for its people,” he said. “I think that this project is a very good reflection of the principles that best embody the town of Phoenixville.”
Scoda said the redevelopment was another positive project for Phoenixville and Chester County and he’s excited about the changes the borough has experienced in the past 15 years.
“If families are in need of daycare, they can go to the Franklin Commons building which has been developed as an entertainment and education center,” Scoda said. “It’s not the same development that occurred 50 years ago when the first Fairview housing was built. There have been a lot of changes that have taken place especially in this part of the borough. We are very proud of the fact that Phoenixville has made so much progress in so many different areas.”
He also recognized Coppedge, saying that he knew the project was “near and dear to him.”
“He brought this problem to the forefront that we need to solve this problem with the housing, that not everyone has affordable housing available to them.”
After the ceremony, Scoda said years ago, the original Fairview Village had 24 units and only four of them were occupied.
When he took over as mayor in 1998, the police were at the development every night.
A drug trade was occurring at Fairview Village, he said. It was a place suited for young families, but residents would have other relatives stay with them who were trouble.
He said police chiefs John Kalavik and Bill Mossman did a lot of work in efforts to stop the drug trade in the development.
The previous development was run down, Scoda said.
Vincent thanked the HUD workers for their efforts and enthusiasm for the project.
“The office of public housing, part of their mission is to ensure safe, decent, affordable housing, often targeted for low-income families to create opportunities for residents’ self sufficiency and economical independence,” she said.
“This story is really a great story. I have been really pleased that I could provide some of the resources that were needed to make this happen. That is what we like to do. Of course we couldn’t do that without the support of Congressman Jim Gerlach and others in Congress to provide the funds that then come out here and help people in the field doing this work. It takes partners like PHFA, the low income housing tax credit and lots of gray hairs as you go through the local process and also the difficult process of trying to merge these many funding sources into a project that really makes a difference. It takes a developer like Pennrose (to help make the project happen).”
The Remington Group is also a partner of the project. One of its responsibilities was relocating the residents that were living in the units before the demolition.
Emery said the project was more than just tracking costs and working on spreadsheets.
“My associate, Kate Milgram, spent five months working directly with each resident, getting to know their families, their stories, and finding them alternative housing, a place they could call home for a short while. She not only spent time working with landlords doing site inspections, turning on utilities, she actually helped move them into a new place.”
Emery said, “Kate not only had the opportunity to do this and assist them, but she also became friends with some of the residents. I look forward to the day we can hand the keys over to the residents and they can call it their new home.”
Stephens said, “One of the major partners to make this happen was PHFA, who has provided the federal low income housing tax credit.”
“I wanted to reiterate how happy we are at PHFA to be part of allocating the low income housing tax credit to this wonderful project,” Stephens said. “I want to commend Pennrose and all of the other partners involved in the project including the county for their support of affordable housing in Chester County. I want to particularly note how thankful Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency is to Congressman Gerlach for his longstanding support of the low income housing tax credit and that is what helps quality programs like this.”
Gerlach said, “I want to thank you collectively for this great project. It is really a celebration of partnership and on behalf of those I represent in Phoenixville and across Chester County, we’re really appreciative that you work so hard together to make this a reality. Certainly the low income housing tax credit supports a piece of the financing here.”
He said in Congress, there is bi-partisan support to ensure the tax credit remains available for communities.
Dambly said, “With the borough, we’ve had some situations in the borough which have been challenging, but you guys have been great with the approvals. I think a lot of it has had to do with Jean Krack, the borough manager, worked effectively meeting with Jackie and our group establishing protocol and helping us figure out how to properly present this opportunity. One of the things that really greased the skids with our approvals was Dale coming on as the executive director.
“Dale comes with a lot of credibility. He does what he says he’s going to do,” Dambly said. “In our business when we are going to transform a neighborhood or community like this that has had some history like this it’s important that they have confidence in the housing authority having the confidence to move forward.”
The Rev. Linda S. Gruber of St. John’s United Church of Christ presented the invocation for the groundbreaking.
Pennrose has worked on other projects in the county such as French Creek Manor in Phoenixville and Mary Taylor House in West Chester.