EAST VINCENT — A nonprofit housing organization received approval from the township zoning hearing board last month to move forward with plans to renovate and add an expansion to the Whitehall Inn building for the purpose of providing housing for veterans.
“The men and women who bravely serve our country make sacrifices every day, so they shouldn’t have to worry about finding a ‘home’ when they return from their tours,” said Walter Kubiak, CEO of Mission First Housing Group, in a press release Wednesday.
The project would provide “permanent housing for at least 50 veterans” and was approved by the zoning hearing board Nov. 14.
Mission First Housing Group is a nonprofit based out of Washington, D.C., which looks to provide “decent, safe affordable housing for low-income persons, including persons with special needs, through the acquisition, development and operation of affordable housing and other facilities in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and surrounding states,” said the organization’s website.
Roughly two miles from the Southeastern Veterans Center, the Whitehall project will be a bit different, East Vincent Township Manager Mary Flagg said.
“Mostly the veterans center we have is a nursing home for guys who are a little older,” Flagg told The Mercury Thursday. “Whitehall is going to be for guys who need a better transition.”
Flagg said she sees the new veterans’ housing as a positive influence on the surrounding area and in the township.
According to Mission First’s plan, the Whitehall Inn building on the 3700 block of Schuylkill Road will be renovated and added on to. It will have a community room, which will be located in the “existing inn,” East Pikeland planning commission meeting minutes from April 16, said. Additionally, there will be fitness facilities, a community room, and “on-site supportive services” along with a “live-in property superintendent.”
Their plan also includes using a geothermal system for temperature control.
The Whitehall Inn opened in 1762 under owner Peter Stager, according to a history available on East Vincent’s website. In the 20th century, it became the Rittenhouse Tavern for a period of time. Flagg said it has remained vacant and deteriorated for at least the last 15 years.
Mission First said planning “began in the summer of 2012 when Mission First met with representatives of the Coatesville VA Medical Center to discuss the development of veterans housing in Chester County.”
They said that the medical center informed them that there was a “limited supply” of affordable veteran housing in the county and that “veterans prefer to live in the company of other veterans who have shared similar life experiences.”
With the proper approvals, Mission First is now looking toward acquiring funding for the project and will submit a financing application to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in March.
Construction is planned to begin in late fall of next year and the first leases should be ready in late 2015.