Courting new housing

ALLEGHENY WEST FOUNDATION NewCourtland will build apartments for senior citizens on the former site of the Stanley Blacker suit factory in Tioga.
ALLEGHENY WEST FOUNDATION NewCourtland will build apartments for senior citizens on the former site of the Stanley Blacker suit factory in Tioga.
Posted: March 20, 2013

NEWCOURTLAND, a company that specializes in housing and health care for senior citizens, has received $10 million in tax-credit funding to build affordable housing in Tioga.

The financing will help NewCourtland build a 60-unit, seven-story apartment building at the former Stanley Blacker suit factory on Allegheny Avenue near 19th Street.

It will be the second phase of a planned campus for elderly housing and health care - the latest project in a building boom of sorts in what had been a deteriorating section of the city. NewCourtland began building the first phase, a NewCourtland LIFE Center, which will provide medical care for low-income seniors, in October.

The financing comes through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

Gail Kass, NewCourtland's president, said the company had been reluctant to start construction of the LIFE Center without any guarantees that it would get tax-credit funding for the housing.

"It was an act of faith," Kass said Friday. "It didn't make a whole lot of sense to put the LIFE program on that plot of land without the housing. We think they belong together. And we kept putting off building the LIFE program, hoping we'd get the housing [funds].

"At some point, we had to fish or cut bait, and we had to have faith that we'd get enough political support to get the housing done," Kass said.

Seniors will have to meet both Medicaid and Medicare eligibility requirements to visit the LIFE Center, where they'll be able to get medical checkups and on-site therapy.

A NewCourtland spokeswoman said construction of the apartment building, which is expected to include a senior center on the first floor, as well as some retail space, may not get started until early 2014. It should be finished about 18 months later.

Ron Hinton, president of the Allegheny West Foundation, which has consulted with NewCourtland, said that many seniors in the area live on fixed incomes and reside in houses built in the 1930s that they may have trouble maintaining. "Now, they will be able to live in decent housing in the same community where they raised their families, and also be able to go right next door to the community center or the LIFE Center," Hinton said.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass who represents the area, said: "I'm really excited about this. This is a game-changer for the whole area."

Noting that the area is also getting ready for the opening of the Bakers Centre, a shopping center that will include a ShopRite at Hunting Park Avenue and Fox Street, Bass added that there are other development projects being planned, both private and public, that are not yet ready to be announced.

She said NewCourtland's apartment building is "a huge boost for all of our efforts. I think it can be an integral part of the revitalizing of North Philadelphia."

On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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