PHOENIXVILLE >> Construction is ready to begin on an affordable housing rental development in Phoenixville. A groundbreaking ceremony for the 48-unit SteelTown Village was held Wednesday.
SteelTown Village is being developed on 3.2 acres at Mason and Wheatland streets. The development is comprised of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units, which will house a diverse population of the elderly, military veterans, persons with disabilities and workforce families. The units will be constructed as 3-story walk ups over flats. All the accessible units will be on the ground level and all units will have private entrances.
Petra Community Housing is the developer of the nearly $13 million project, which was proposed in response to the need for more housing options for lower-income residents in Phoenixville.
“This little non profit — Petra Community Housing — did what appeared to be impossible a few years ago,” Petra Community Housing Director Steve Kambic told the crowd on Wednesday.
It has taken several years for SteelTown Village to get to this point — the groundbreaking ceremony followed numerous meetings, environmental analysis and soil remediation. Final approval for the project was given by Phoenixville Borough Council in March.
Among the issues faced in moving the project forward was the fact that the site — formerly a grinding wheel operation — required extensive environmental analysis and site remediation.
“We knew there was arsenic here, we looked at this with our eyes wide open. We did a Phase 1 environmental assessment — we knew there was arsenic and the potential for other contaminant. But we had some really good advice,” Kambic said.
On Wednesday, Kambic told the more than 50 people in attendance at the ceremony, that all of the remediation has been completed.
“This Brownfield is now a Greenfield,” he said to a round of applause.
Among those in attendance Wednesday were community members and leaders, Chester County commissioners and some of the partners that have helped to move the project forward.
“This is what it’s all about. This is about what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives — to help people make it a better place to live,” said Don Coppedge, a long-time proponent of affordable housing in Phoenixville. “This is only the beginning — there’s a lot to be done. Let’s make it the community that we can.”
In response to a comment by Kambic about the role the borough played in moving the project forward, borough council President Jim Kovaleski said the borough did what it always does with developers — supports them to make sure they build what’s best for the community.
“We’ve all come together to reach this reality — to reach this dream,” he said. “We have a lot of development going on downtown — that’s geared toward one part of the population. This is for somebody else. This is great. We need this in Phoenixville — we need more of this in Phoenixville.”
As Phoenixville continues its trend of population growth and development of higher-end housing options, the housing options for existing, lower-income residents are dwindling.
“As one of the wealthiest counties in the state and nation. Chester County is sought after when it comes to finding a place to live. But the truth is — not everyone can afford to live here,” said Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “We can’t stress enough the importance of affordable housing in places like Phoenixville.”
She added that the county has provided $1 million to the project, funding for which also includes Pennsylvania Low Income Tax Credits, grants and private funding.
SteelTown Village, with 48 affordable homes, adds to successful fabric of Phoenixville,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Michelle Kichline. “We all know that the diverse population of people who will come to live here — veterans, families, those with disabilities and the elderly — will continue to contribute to a thriving Phoenixville community.”
Kambic admits there were times as the process moved forward, “where we had to stop and catch our breath, where we thought we weren’t going to make it.
“There have been so many challenges, but everything has been provided when it was necessary,” he added.
Petra Community Housing has also partnered with a number of local service providers in the area. Services that will be available to residents include job search assistance, transportation, and education, according to a press release.