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Joining forces to build affordable housing for Seniors
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by Erin Arvedlund, Inquirer Staff Writer
On a rainy day last month, the mayor of Philadelphia helped cut the ribbon on Nugent Senior Apartments in Mount Airy, one of the city’s latest ventures seeding real estate developments that it hopes will provide more-affordable housing.
Nugent Senior Apartments is one of a string of senior housing properties springing up around Philadelphia, and its developer, Nolen Properties of Manayunk, is about to begin construction on another apartment project for the elderly.
Later this year, Nolen will begin construction to convert St. Alice School, a former Catholic education stronghold in Upper Darby, into redeveloped senior-living apartments. “We are currently scheduled to start the Alician Senior Apartments in the former St. Alice School in September,” said Rick Sudall, managing director at Nolen Properties.
In addition to the city’s $2.6 million seed money, the $16.9 million Nugent Senior Apartments in Mount Airy received a Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Low Income Housing Tax Credit award. The $11.5 million in tax credits were purchased by lender PNC Bank.
The city can’t afford to build housing on its own. Instead, it seeds with grant money to lure private developers.
“Nugent Senior Apartments is an excellent example of what happens when an engaged community and an innovative developer receive support from city government,” Nutter said.
“Working together, we were able to preserve a rich piece of Philadelphia history and create a new use for it that benefits the community.”
The city “is anxious to stimulate more building, and to do so they are giving grants” prompting for-profit developers to get involved, Nolen’s Sudall added.
In Mount Airy, neighbors mounted a campaign to add the Nugent retirement home, an 1895 property, to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, so they could head off the long-vacant building’s expected demolition. (The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places two years later.)
After Nolen Properties bought the Nugent, a former Baptist ministers’ residence, the developer initially expected to convert it into market-rate apartments.
Using the tax credits and the city seed money, Nolen Properties ended up building 57 affordable senior apartments in its rehab of the historic building at 221 W. Johnson St.
Six units are affordable to seniors at a maximum household income of $17,150, and the remainder are affordable to seniors with maximum household income for one person of $34,260. Six apartments are fully handicapped accessible, and three are designed for residents with sensory impairments.
In Upper Darby, the St. Alice School, 150 Hampden Rd., closed in 2006, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia finally sold the building as part of its divestment of local parish properties.
Nolen Properties bought the building and, in March, received zoning approval for a senior independent-living facility.
Nolen will develop 3.9 acres with renovation of the former elementary school into 54 age-restricted one-bedroom units.
The proposed renovations include adding to the existing school building – including an additional floor – to create a five-story, multifamily apartment building for elderly residents on the north side of Walnut Street, between Copley Road and Hampden.
Sudall said the developer received approval for 97 parking spaces at the site.
St. Alice Parish, founded in 1922, merged with neighboring St. Laurence Parish in 2013, under the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning initiative.