State rejects convent apartment funding

Dis­carded plans: State law­makers say a pro­spect­ive de­veloper has with­drawn its plans to con­vert the Sis­ters of the Holy Fam­ily of Naz­areth prop­erty in­to low-in­come hous­ing. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Holme Circle res­id­ents ap­pear to have won their fight to block the con­ver­sion of a loc­al con­vent in­to a low-in­come apart­ment build­ing.

On March 14, the Pennsylvania Hous­ing Fin­ance Agency board elec­ted not to grant pub­lic fund­ing for the re­devel­op­ment of the 45,000-square-foot Sis­ters of the Holy Fam­ily of Naz­areth res­id­ence at 2701 Holme Ave. As a res­ult, ac­cord­ing to two area state le­gis­lat­ors, the would-be de­veloper has de­cided not to pur­sue the pro­ject.

State Reps. Ed Neilson and Kev­in Boyle both told the North­east Times that of­fi­cials from Colum­bus Prop­erty Man­age­ment and De­vel­op­ment Inc., do­ing busi­ness as 1260 Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Corp., have said that they will with­draw their plan to con­vert the six-story con­vent.

“They will not be re­sub­mit­ting this pro­ject [for state fund­ing],” Neilson said. “They said they have oth­er pro­jects where the com­munity is wel­com­ing, where [neigh­bors] are more re­cept­ive than us.”

“That’s what they com­mu­nic­ated to us as well,” Boyle said. “It’s a great day for Holme Circle and Winchester Park.”

The Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation learned late last year of the low-in­come apart­ment build­ing pro­pos­al. The re­li­gious or­der has owned the build­ing for dec­ades, but had oc­cu­pied only a small por­tion of it in re­cent years as the num­ber of nuns liv­ing there de­clined. Most of the build­ing re­mained va­cant and fell in­to dis­repair.

The sis­ters built a new, smal­ler con­vent on an ad­ja­cent par­cel of land and have been plan­ning to sell the old con­vent.

CPM pro­posed an $11 mil­lion renov­a­tion of the site in­to a 66-unit apart­ment build­ing that would tar­get low-in­come mil­it­ary vet­er­ans as ten­ants. It would’ve been called The Stella in memory of a mar­tyred Holy Fam­ily sis­ter.

CPM sought a pub­lic sub­sidy in the form of a Low In­come Hous­ing Tax Cred­it from PHFA. The state agency on Thursday awar­ded tax cred­its total­ing more than $16 mil­lion to 17 pro­jects. CPM’s Stella pro­ject was not one of them.

Ac­cord­ing to Neilson, PHFA funds about 20 to 25 per­cent of tax cred­it ap­plic­a­tions it re­ceives in any giv­en year.

Neigh­bor­hood op­pos­i­tion to the pro­pos­al was strong and in­cluded the Holme Circle and Winchester Park civic groups, along with Naz­areth Hos­pit­al, Neilson, Boyle and state Rep. John Sabat­ina. The pro­ject site is in Boyle’s dis­trict and with­in blocks of Neilson’s and Sabat­ina’s dis­tricts.

Neigh­bors feared that a big apart­ment build­ing for low-in­come renters would con­flict with their com­munity of single-fam­ily homes and would be det­ri­ment­al to prop­erty val­ues. Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation lead­ers were skep­tic­al of what they per­ceived as am­bi­gu­ities and con­tra­dic­tions in the de­veloper’s ap­plic­a­tion for state fund­ing.

In the ap­plic­a­tion, the de­veloper claimed it had re­ceived pos­it­ive feed­back from the com­munity, but CPM of­fi­cials did not meet with the HCCA un­til after fil­ing the ap­plic­a­tion. Fur­ther, the civic group learned that the de­veloper could not leg­ally guar­an­tee that all ten­ants would be mil­it­ary vet­er­ans.

Speak­ing on be­half of the HCCA board, Pres­id­ent Elsie Stevens said, “Holme Circle Civic op­posed [the] pro­pos­al be­cause it lacked suf­fi­cient spe­cificity about the long-term use of the con­vent build­ing. However, our civic will con­tin­ue to work with in­ter­ested parties to en­sure that the ap­pro­pri­ate fu­ture use of the prop­erty is mu­tu­ally be­ne­fi­cial to pro­spect­ive own­ers, res­id­ents and the com­munity.”

Stevens said that the HCCA will next meet on March 27, at 7 p.m., at St. Jerome’s School hall, Stam­ford and Col­fax streets. City Coun­cil­man Den­nis O’Bri­en is ex­pec­ted to speak about the fu­ture of the con­vent prop­erty and oth­er loc­al is­sues such as traffic prob­lems on Holme Av­en­ue. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or 

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