Holme Circle Civic plans fight against convent apartments

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. •• 

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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