Members of the Holme Circle Civic Association are still waiting to see if a private real estate development company will get millions of dollars in state funding to rebuild a 45,000-square-foot convent as an apartment building for low-income people.
But the civic group already knows what it plans to do in either case.
Speaking at the HCCA’s monthly meeting on Feb. 27, President Elsie Stevens said that the group should continue to fight against the low-income apartment project even if the developer gets its grant from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. And if PHFA denies the developer’s grant request, then the HCCA should try to recruit a different company to build something more palatable to the community.
The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth own the six-story convent at 2701 Holme Ave. About 20 nuns live there, but much of the building remains vacant. The nuns plan to move into a new, smaller convent on an adjacent parcel, then sell the old convent.
Columbus Property Management and Development Inc., doing business as 1260 Housing Development Corp., has agreed to buy and rehab the old convent at a cost of $11 million. But the deal is contingent upon state funding.
Neighbors are skeptical of the plan, fearing that the building would attract low-income renters who will be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood. Neighbors would have some influence over the building’s rental policies through an advisory committee, but the civic association wants more specific regulations, such as a seniors-only restriction.
“If CPM’s application is approved, we will continue to fight the funding and [try to] influence the parameters of the advisory committee,” Stevens said. “If CPM is denied, we will work to seek other developers.”
The civic group might not have to worry about the first of those scenarios, according to state Rep. Ed Neilson. Although the property is actually inside Rep. Kevin Boyle’s 172nd district, Neilson’s 169th district and Rep. John Sabatina’s 174th district each fall within a few blocks of the site. All three lawmakers support the civic group’s position on the project.
The PHFA is scheduled to vote on the grant application on March 14, Neilson said. In general, the state agency awards grants to between only 20 percent to 25 percent of applicants each fiscal year, according to the lawmaker.
“I hope the board makes the right decision and denies funding so the developer can work closer with the community if they decide to move forward with this project,” Neilson said.
The lawmaker thinks that the civic group’s plan to seek other potential developers is wise.
“That’s a great approach. Instead of being reactive, be proactive,” Neilson said.
Stevens said that the civic group had received a letter from Nazareth Hospital CEO Nancy Cherone stating that the hospital is not interested in expanding into the neighboring convent and that the hospital supports the civic group’s position on the project.
In other HCCA business:
• Debbie Cerruti, co-owner of the Northeast Wellness Center at 2869 Holme Ave., said that she and her husband, Domenic, are interested in buying the former Northeast Community Center at 2840 Holme Ave. The move would allow her business to expand from 5,500 to 28,000 square feet and expand its services to include physical therapy, cardio and resistance training, group fitness classes, swimming and basketball.
The Community Center is in the midst of foreclosure proceedings after its owners were unable to repay a $1.1 million loan to TD Bank. ••