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City Council allocates state grant funds to senior living developer

Photo provided to the Times Observer This is a design under consideration for the proposed senior living facility in downtown Warren. The eagles included in the design are likely the eagles currently on the vacant buildings — the southeast corner of the intersection of Liberty St. and Pennsylvania Ave. — where this facility is proposed to be located. Council approved allocating $1.5 million in state grant money to the developer on Monday in order to demolish the remaining structures and complete some other preliminary work.

Warren City Council signed off on a proposal to allocate some state grant funds to a developer hoping to bring a senior living facility to downtown Warren.

Council took the action during a special meeting on Monday night to sub-grant $1.5 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds to Pennsylvania Senior Housing Associates, LP. The target properties for the project are the empty lot and vacant buildings at 231-237 Pennsylvania Ave. W.

The proposed project includes 40 housing units for individuals 62 and older including an art studio, computer lab and public space on the first floor.

City Manager Nancy Freenock said that the city has been awarded a total of $5.5 million between 2018 and 2020 from the RACP program.

She explained that the funds must be spent within five years and be used for an economic development project. The funding stream requires a 100 percent match and she said the city lacks the cash to match but can subgrant the funding.

The $1.5 million will be used to demolish the vacant buildings, cover site preparation costs and construct an entry way into the garage from the back alley to ease tenant access.

The original funding stream aimed to fund the project through state tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

However it was announced back in August that the project was not selected for state tax credits for the second consecutive year.

Kelley Coey with the housing firm said that the city’s application in the next cycle of tax credit awards is due Feb. 5.

She said they’ve received a good indication the project will be awarded but noted that this is “just a very competitive process.”

Coey explained that the RACP funding reduces a loan ask the project application would include which would make the project “very appealing to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.”

And if this next application isn’t successful, they’ll try again.

“Every time we are turned down by the agency… we have to go through it with a fine tooth comb from them to find out why they turned it down,” she said. “The application is a very competitive application” and said the RACP funding “will push it right over the edge.”

A tax credit consultant working with the developer, Laura Northup, said that only one in three applications are awarded tax credits each year.

She noted that the developer probably has already invested $200,000 into the process and said the firm has committed to “putting in some more funds to make it whole in addition to the RACP.”

Council approved the move unanimously.

Councilman John Wortman called it an “incredible idea.

“I think this is a fantastic idea. Hopefully it allows some of our seniors… to continue their residence in the city” when it may otherwise not be possible, he said.

Councilman Christian Zavinski asked about the timeline if “everything goes smoothly.”

Northup said the tax credit awards will come in late spring or early summer of this year and said it takes about eight months to close. She said that could put a “shovel in the ground” in early 2022. Coey said construction would take 12-14 months.

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