Holme Ave. housing plan stirring opposition

Op­pos­i­tion seems to be mount­ing against a pro­pos­al to con­vert a six-story Holme Av­en­ue con­vent in­to 44 apart­ments for vet­er­ans and oth­er low-in­come in­di­vidu­als.

Last week, the pres­id­ents of the Holme Circle, Rhawn Gar­dens, Winchester Park and Ashton Square civic as­so­ci­ations met with Nancy Cher­one, the in­ter­im CEO of Naz­areth Hos­pit­al.

“It was a cor­di­al meet­ing. Noth­ing def­in­ite came out of it,” said Elsie Stevens, the new pres­id­ent of Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation.

Earli­er dis­cus­sions of the mat­ter took place last month at the Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing and the dis­trict of­fice of state Rep. Kev­in Boyle.

The 45,399-square-foot con­vent is loc­ated at 2723 Holme Ave. It is ad­ja­cent to, but sep­ar­ate from, the hos­pit­al. Naz­areth Hos­pit­al has not taken a pub­lic stance on the pro­pos­al.

The Illinois-based Sis­ters of the Holy Fam­ily of Naz­areth of the USA own the con­vent. An es­tim­ated 20 loc­al Sis­ters who have lived there will move to an­oth­er, smal­ler con­vent on the same grounds.

The planned con­ver­sion does not need zon­ing ap­prov­al. Colum­bus Prop­erty Man­age­ment & De­vel­op­ment Inc., aka 1260 Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion, is seek­ing state fund­ing for the $11 mil­lion-plus pro­ject.

The com­plex will be called The Stella, in memory of Sis­ter Stella, the Moth­er Su­per­i­or of a group of 11 nuns who offered their lives in sac­ri­fice in 1943 in present-day Be­larus. The nuns were killed by a fir­ing squad. In ex­change, the Gestapo agreed not to ex­ecute 120 Jew­ish people who were ar­res­ted and slated for death.

Op­pon­ents of the pro­pos­al worry about crime, point­ing to in­cid­ents at oth­er sites op­er­ated by Colum­bus Prop­erty Man­age­ment.

In ad­di­tion, they ques­tion some of the word­ing in CPM’s Nov. 2 ap­plic­a­tion to the Pennsylvania Hous­ing Fin­ance Agency. The ap­plic­a­tion claims the pro­pos­al is “well-ac­cep­ted by the com­munity,” but lists people from out­side the area, in­clud­ing West Phil­adelphia- based City Coun­cil­wo­man Jan­nie Black­well, as sup­port­ers.

Also, there is the is­sue of park­ing near a hos­pit­al that already does not have enough space for staff and vis­it­ors.

And, they worry that CPM has Sec­tion 8 sites and could of­fer vouch­ers at the con­vent prop­erty.

Each one-bed­room apart­ment can house up to two people. CPM prom­ised at the Nov. 28 Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing that all 44 units would be oc­cu­pied by vet­er­ans, but its pa­per­work in­dic­ates that “oth­er low-in­come in­di­vidu­als” could move in­to one of the apart­ments.

“Now there’s a dis­crep­ancy,” said Stevens, the Holme Circle civic lead­er.

CPM has said it will “tar­get” vet­er­ans.

“You can have a tar­get, but you can miss your tar­get,” Stevens said. “We want it in writ­ing.”

Op­pon­ents would feel more com­fort­able with seni­or cit­izens liv­ing in the prop­erty rather than hav­ing a des­ig­na­tion of “gen­er­al oc­cu­pancy.” They are call­ing for a 99-year, leg­ally bind­ing agree­ment for a hous­ing des­ig­na­tion of “seni­ors only,” wheth­er they be vet­er­ans or not.

Ideally, though, they’d rather have Naz­areth Hos­pit­al or an­oth­er med­ic­al fa­cil­ity use the space.

Loc­al elec­ted of­fi­cials, along with the neigh­bor­ing May­fair and Holmes­burg civic as­so­ci­ations, seem to side with the com­munity, though the pic­ture won’t be clear­er un­til Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation meets again in Janu­ary.

The Pennsylvania Hous­ing Fin­ance Agency is       not ex­pec­ted to make a de­cision on fund­ing un­til March. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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