Going once, going twice…

Downtown property sold to private developer for senior housing units

This property – 231-237 Pennsylvania Ave. W. – has been sold by the City of Warren Redevelopment Authority to a private developer who aims to build senior housing units.

The City of Warren Redevelopment Authority has sold a parcel of downtown real estate to a private developer who intends to construct senior housing on the site.

The property in question is 231-237 Pennsylvania Ave. W.

Located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Ave. and Liberty St., the parcel includes an empty corner lot and two dilapidated buildings.

The Redevelopment Authority on Wednesday agreed to the sale after a presentation from Kelley Coey, development coordinator with Hermitage-based Hudson Companies.

The funding for the project would come via federal tax credits administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

“The Tax Credit Program makes available to owners of and investors in low-income rental housing developments a federal Tax Credit which is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of their federal tax liability,” according to PHFA program guidelines.

“What we try to do in all our facilities… we’re in the towns. We understand what the community needs and what the concept is,” Coey said.

She said that other similar projects include exercise rooms, laundry, raised garden beds and a community lobby.

Coey outlined the need for additional senior housing in the city.

“We do our own internal market studies,” she said. “What we found when we ran the numbers in Warren is that there are 983 eligible households in this market area. 620 of those seniors are located in the City of Warren.

“The market study is a combination of eligible households and current demands in the housing market. We can assess from there whether (the city) needs more affordable housing.”

She added there is a “clear need in Warren” and said that the company’s proposal is linked to the city’s strategic plan. “Transportation is available here. The site we’re looking at is very walkable. That’s a huge thing. (There are) amenities right within the area.”

Coey then outlined the concept plan for the roughly 40-unit apartment building being designed for Warren.

Citing connections to parks and recreation, trails as well as arts and culture in the downtown, “we see our community center having an art component (such as) built in kilns for pottery, a stage for music and then the education component can be working with various organizations around town to incorporate classes… even the possibility of seniors to be able to sell artwork. (We) see all these possibilities.”

She said the facility would have a “healthcare component” to it and is “going to be a whole combination of arts, culture, health wellness and education.”

Coey then addressed the specific site.

“We believe that the structure itself, in order to get around 40 units is regularly our goal, is going to be a built out site… (We) think the intent is to create a building that fits in with the fabric that is currently there in the historic district.”

She said the goal would be to link the structure to pedestrian pathways as well as provide access to cars parked in the parking garage as well as a “beautiful outdoor area along Liberty St.” and a connection to the river.

“The site is fairly challenging,” she said, with the back of the site facing the parking garage but said that the site does slope which has led them to likely conclude that the first floor will be partially underground.

She estimated that “thinking basically on square footage” that the building will feature four grounds above grade with the one partially below.

The company would also preserve the eagle facade on the front of the existing buildings and incorporate them into the new design.

As far as a timeline, Coey said that the application deadline for the tax credit program is in October with awards being announced the following April.

She said it is “very standard” to have to apply in two or three cycles for the funding.

If awarded in the first round, Coey said that construction could follow in October 2019 and roughly 10 months to one year to complete.

She said about one-in-three applications are funded in each cycle.

“It’s perfect timing,” Coey said “(We) take about six to eight months to prepare one of these applications so the timing is really wonderful. We will have plenty of time to put together a very thoughtful application.”

The RDA then agreed unanimously to sell the property without additional comment.

Terry Williams, the city’s director of codes, permits and recreation services said after the meeting that city staff are excited to have a plan in place regarding this parcel.

She added no money will change hands as part of the deal and that the sale agreement includes timelines under which the property would revert to the city if the project is not completed.

Williams said that the developer will be demolishing the existing buildings within one year of the transfer of title and that if the property reverts to the city in the future that the city will be on the hook to the developer for the demolition cost.