By Amay Smith and Christina Trinh

Port Richmond: Vacant School is Site for New Senior Housing

Port Richmond: Vacant School is Site for New Senior Housing
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Port Richmond senior Eileen Woods said she and her girlfriends were excited to hear about future senior housing at Nativity because it was their former grade school. She said it would be nice to go back and return to her roots.

“Sure, it’d be great for a bunch of us to live in a house by the beach,” Woods said. “But realistically, we’re talking about Nativity. It’d be nice to share a space where we can all take care of each other.”

Roses from Campbell Square sit right across the street from the vacant and boarded-up Nativity building.

Catholic Health Care Services (CHCS) is working towards the conversion of the former parish school at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) located on the corner of Belgrade and Madison Streets into an independent living residence for seniors 62 years and older. The development will consist of 63 one-bedroom apartment units for independent seniors and is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly.

“We learned the school had closed from the pastor of the parish,” said the director of project development for Catholic Health Care Services John Wagner. “He contacted the secretary for CHCS Joseph Sweeney. Sweeney said we should take a look at the building and see if it would be possible to have an adaptable reuse for senior housing. It was the pastor’s request and at the same time Councilwoman Joan Krajewski who attended the school had a similar thought. We looked at the building and consulted with many people within the parish council and the broader community to ensure this was something the community would support first.”

Wagner said the support from the community has been overwhelming.

He said the timeline has been delayed because there are two individuals in the neighborhood, a mother and a son, who have an appeal before the zoning board. Wagner and CHCS made several attempts to reach out to the residents to try to address their concerns and see if they could cure whatever it was that was troubling them around the development plans but they wanted to go through a legal process instead.

“It’s a load of bologna,”  said director of St. Anne’s Senior Citizen and resident of Port Richmond Barbara Jo Hartzell. “We were all very excited about the plans to turn Nativity into housing.”

Nativity is located at 2541 E. Madison St. in Port Richmond

Social worker for Catholic Social Services Sarah Lewis said she works with many clients who would greatly benefit from the senior housing plans. She explained it takes a lot of money for seniors to take care of a house on their own, especially on fixed incomes.

“There’s a lot of need,” Lewis said. “A lot of these people lived in this neighborhood their entire lives and will not move. There are emergency situations. This senior housing at Nativity would be a change for the better.”

On July 6, there will be a hearing where the Port Richmond residents will have the opportunity to present the reasons why they wouldn’t want the conversion of the parish school to occur. Wagner and CHCS then will present why they feel it’s beneficial to the overall neighborhood, the common good and the seniors who live in and around the community.

“We feel confident that for the common good, the court will find in our favor and we will be able to convert Nativity into an asset for the neighborhood,” Wagner said.

The overarching design goal for the development is to renovate the exterior in a manner that brings the building closer to its original form while bringing a new, long-term use for the building.

This conversion from a school building to senior housing will require substantial removal of interior walls within the building. However, the building will look mostly the same from the exterior. There will also be a small four-story addition to accommodate more residential units. The entire building will have a total gross square footage of 62,500 when complete.

“Each apartment will have its own kitchen, living area, closets, bathroom and one bedroom,” said architect manager for Community Development Archdiocese of Philadelphia Kimiko Doherty. “The building will be air-conditioned, which individual apartments will be able to control. There will be a laundry room on the first and third floors and then there will be a community resident room furnished with a large TV in the lower level as well as a computer room for residents.”

Wagner said there will be access cards for entry into the building. The building will be staffed during the day. CHCS is looking into systems it can afford to senior residents so that they can have easy access to contact the management company if something arises.

“There’s nothing safer than having a fully occupied building, to have more eyes on the street with more people coming in and out of the street on a regular basis in the evenings, early mornings, Saturdays and Sundays,” Doherty said. “I think that’s going to help people feel safe.”

Kids will have a much nicer building to play in front of once Nativity is converted.

The neighborhood surrounding Nativity B.V.M. place has numerous existing community resources to help seniors remain independent and active in the community. Located within a quarter mile of the site are bakeries, beauty salons, bookstores, churches, doctor offices, funeral homes, insurance agencies and restaurants. The building itself is located fronting Campbell Square Park, the central public gathering place for the community.

“This was not our brainchild,” Wagner said. “We did not come here in hopes to develop this project. We were invited here by the pastor, the people who come to this parish and the larger community to explore and see if this was in fact a good use for this building. This building has served this community since 1916 educating children in the area and now it will have an adaptable reuse where it will serve seniors. We think it’s a wonderful use of the property. It’s responsible.”

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/kBY9c0

11 Responses to Port Richmond: Vacant School is Site for New Senior Housing

  1. Malinda October 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Most help articles on the web are iacncraute or incoherent. Not this!

  2. DORIS January 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    HELLO. I WOULD LOVE IT TO RETURN TO WHAT IT WAS BUT … TIMES CHANGE.THINK IT IS IN A GREAT LOCATION FOR SUCH A FACILITY, PARK ACROSS THE STREET AND CHURCH! ALMOST EVERYTHING NEEDED IS IN WALKING DISTANCE OR A SHORT DRIVE AWAY!! WOULD BE VERY NICE IF THEY KEPT THE NAME AND DID A BEFORE AND AFTER VIDEO OF THE INSIDE AND OUT!! MAYBE I SHOULD SIGN THE WAITING LIST NOW SO THAT THERE MIGHT BE AVAILABILITY WHEN I BECOME ELIGIBLE. : ) THANK YOU!!

  3. Sue May 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    With each passing day this building is becoming more of an eyesore for our community. I wish the mother and son team would back off and let the residents of Port Richmond continue to live in their community with the help this building will become!! They need to give it up!!! One day they might need this facility!

  4. Donna Gale June 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Kudos to all involved in this vision! It is so needed for our community! Thank you to all who are involved!!!!

  5. Terry Banford February 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    It has been close to 5 years… just got another parking ticket because of abandoned school no stopping any time… signage remains. School is an eyesore that I see everyday when I open my front door. I am sick of it!!!

  6. www February 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written
    by him as nobody else know such detailed
    about my problem. You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  7. Frank McCormac December 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Love to find out about this SENIOR HOUSING

  8. Frank McCormac December 3, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    WHEN WILL IT BE OPEN?Love to hear all about it

  9. Mary November 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I went to school here my sister n brother did also n my mom did when it was just a one floor school house I love the idea of a seioner citizen home n hopefully one day I’ll live there too I would love to live were I went to school thank u n god bless

  10. Jackie December 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    I understand this is going to be a place for ppl thats 62 and older, how about disabled ppl ? i would love to get into one of these but only in my 50″s but on social security disability, why can’t ppl like me move into one of these places, on low income, did anyone think about this? Love to hear back about this,
    Thank You

  11. susan maldonado December 28, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Im in dire need of a low income apt. I just turned 62 dec 14th. N won’t recieve my monthly income until feb. I rent a bedroom from my brother on 3000 belgrade. Where can i applie n do any apts come furnished??? Im single n healthy and id love to stay in the neighborhood. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Susan Maldonado

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