Senior-housing program gets green light, construction to begin this fall
by Jen Colletta
Apr 19, 2012 | 4215 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<b>STANDING FOR SENIORS:</b> Mayor Michael Nutter joined the board of Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund president Mark Segal April 16 at William Way LGBT Community Center to celebrate a victory for LGBT seniors. Last week the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority awarded $11 million in tax-credit financing for a DMH Fund plan to create an LGBT-friendly senior-housing facility. Construction is expected to begin in the fall. Photo: Scott A. Drake
STANDING FOR SENIORS: Mayor Michael Nutter joined the board of Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund president Mark Segal April 16 at William Way LGBT Community Center to celebrate a victory for LGBT seniors. Last week the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority awarded $11 million in tax-credit financing for a DMH Fund plan to create an LGBT-friendly senior-housing facility. Construction is expected to begin in the fall. Photo: Scott A. Drake
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After years of stops and starts, the city’s proposed LGBT-friendly senior residences got one of its most important green lights last week.

Backers of the proposed William Way Senior Residences were notified April 12 that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded the proposal low-income housing tax credits, the final piece of the funding needed to move the project forward.

Construction on the Gayborhood facility is scheduled to begin in the fall and is anticipated to last about 15 months.

The tax credits are expected to generate $11 million for the program, and backers already closed the gap in the $19-million price tag by securing $8 million in public funding from the city and state.

The project — spearheaded by the Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund and developer Pennrose Properties — was one of 32 multi-family housing initiatives to receive the PHFA credits.

It will be among the first LGBT-friendly senior residences in the nation.

In a posting on its blog this week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development called the program a “pioneering innovation” for low-income LGBT seniors.

“Successes like Philadelphia’s LGBT senior-housing initiative demonstrate that purposeful, collaborative, pointed action not only impacts communities but changes lives,” HUD wrote.

The six-story facility will be housed in the Gayborhood, at 249-257 S. 13th St., in the lot next to the Parker Spruce Hotel.

The building was originally proposed to adjoin the William Way LGBT Community Center on Spruce Street, but the center backed out of the deal after the project did not receive tax credits last year.

After submitting a new application to PHFA in October, organizers anticipated groundbreaking could happen in early 2013, but Pennrose development officer Jacob Fisher noted that backers “are trying to push this up because why wait?”

“We’re so excited to be part of history,” Fisher said. “We feel very lucky and happy that Mark [Segal] and DMH put their eggs in a basket with us as the developer and we’re looking forward to a lot of work between now and closing, and a lot of work to get this opened in 2013.”

When its doors open, the facility will be home to 56 one-bedroom units, as well as 2,700 square feet of rental retail and community space on the ground floor.

DMH Fund president and PGN publisher Mark Segal said the facility is meant to be a community hub — with Mazzoni Center offering health services and William Way serving as the conduit for all social services. Segal said organizers are encouraging Independence Business Alliance to bid on subcontracting opportunities.

“We see this project as an economic engine for Washington Square West and the LGBT community,” Segal said. “We’re going to have 200 union workers working every single day on this project and people living in the building and working in the building every day.”

The residences are designed to be accessible to seniors of varying economic capacities.

Six apartments will be reserved for those making less than 20 percent of the area median income — $81,500 — and those units will be leased for $175 a month.

The other residences will range from $615-$775 per month, depending upon the resident’s income.

Fisher said the application process for potential residents, who must be 62 and older, will begin about three months before construction is completed.

There are still a number of details that need to be ironed out before groundbreaking.

“We need to go through all of the city land development approvals, get our drawings — both civilian and architecture — up to speed to submit for permits,” Fisher said. “We have all of our financing commitments in place but we need to get the loan documents negotiated and agreed on with due diligence and then bring in our investor, who has yet to be determined, who will be the entity purchasing the tax credits we were awarded.”

Backers will also need to go through the disposition process with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, which owns the lot on which the facility will be built — an undertaking that will require approval by the RDA board and City Council.

Jen Colletta can be reached at jen@epgn.com.

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