PHOENIXVILLE — A property swap rooted in a disputed housing project that goes back to 2013 received a $1.5 million boost from the state this week.
Borough Manager E. Jean Krack informed Phoenixville Borough Council Tuesday that a state grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program was approved to help pay for the community center the borough is aiming to build adjacent to Friendship Field.
It cost the borough $1,500 to apply for the grant, Krack said.
The property at 501 Franklin Ave., site of the old Friendship Fire Company, was originally slated to be a three-story "work-force housing" development with 72 units — a project to which local residents strenuously objected.
As an alternative, borough officials, who were planning a new borough hall on Bridge Street, offered a site better suited for senior residents, 140 Church St., the site of the previous borough hall.
In July, a 5-1-1 vote granted final site plan approval to what is now an "affordable" senior housing project called Barclay Gardens at the old borough hall site, a five-story building with 125 units for those 55 and older.
Residents there will pay a one-time $295,000 entry fee and rent of $500 to $600 per month.
Although borough officials had originally said they wanted to use the Franklin Avenue site to "improve fields" at Friendship Park, that plan has morphed into a plan for a 38,000 square-foot community center.
Krack said the building will not only house a gymnasium, work-out room, pre-school classroom, full kitchen and offices for the parks and recreation department, but a vehicle bay with room for one fire truck and one ambulance, to be used in cases of emergency or extreme weather.
"This is wonderful news for Phoenixville," state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-157th Dist., said in a prepared statement announcing the award.
"The downtown area is alive with retail, restaurants and new multi-family developments. What was once a struggling former manufacturing community has been transformed. But with that change has come a need for an increased ability to provide the services this community deserves," Kampf said.
Kampf said he worked with state Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th Dist. and state Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155th Dist. "have been pushing for this funding since last October,"
“As a thriving town that draws residents from throughout the region, capital improvements are needed,” Corbin said in the same news release. “The new community center is necessary to better serve our citizens. I want to thank the Wolf administration for responding to our calls for help.”
Although he mentioned the existence of a price cap to council Tuesday, Krack declined to provide Digital First Media with an estimate for the cost of the project and said there is no public document on which such an estimate exists. He said with the bids for the project being released Monday, he did not want to reveal the borough's cost cap to potential bidders.
Previous reports had the borough seeking grants for as much as $12.5 million.
It will obviously cost at least $1.5 million and during the July meeting at which the Barclay project was approved, Council President James Kovaleski said the borough would likely have to take out a bond to pay for "a new civic center" that "will likely raise taxes."
It is unclear whether he was referring to the community center that is the subject of this grant.
Tuesday night, council voted to award the administration and construction oversight contract to the architecture firm of Carnevale/Eustis which also designed the project. No price for that contract was discussed
Councilwoman Catherine Doherty voted against awarding the contract and said she voted against it in committee as well because she is worried the building being designed "is too large."