State approves $7M for senior center

Published by Jen Colletta in the Philadelphia Gay News on October 7, 2010.

The state legislature approved a $7-million allocation this week for a proposed LGBT senior housing project.

The state House and Senate both signed off on the Capital Budget Project Itemization Act of 2010/11 on Oct. 4, and the measure now awaits the expected signature of Gov. Rendell.

The spending bill includes the appropriation for “acquisition, construction, infrastructure, redevelopment and other related costs for the William Way Senior Housing Project.”

The proposed senior residences would be situated in a building attached to the William Way LGBT Community Center on Spruce Street.

The project, spearheaded by the Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund, would include 40-70 affordable-housing units for low-income seniors and would also include renovations to the current community center. The initiative is predicted to cost about $20 million and will be undertaken by Pennrose Properties.

Mark Segal, president of the Hirschfield Fund and PGN publisher, hailed the funding milestone as historic.

“Never before has our government allocated such a large sum of money for a brick-and-mortar LGBT-friendly project,” Segal said Tuesday. “We still have a long way to go to make this project a reality, but yesterday we took a big step.”

State Rep. Mike O’Brien, a strong proponent of the effort, commended his fellow lawmakers on their support.

“I am pleased that the state has continued its commitment to senior housing,” O’Brien said. “I am delighted that the state has made this large of a commitment to the LGBT community.”

The Hirschfield Fund last month submitted its first grant proposal for the project to the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development. OHCD received about 20 proposals and several will be selected to share the $8.5-million grant.

The center will host a public meeting to discuss the proposed senior-housing program at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 13 at the center, 1315 Spruce St. The meeting is meant to generate community input and feedback about the idea so that the center’s board of directors can consider the views of its key stakeholders and the LGBT community at large.

“We look forward to engaging with the community on Oct. 13 to hear their thoughts about the ways that these crucial resources can best be applied to meet LGBT seniors’ needs,” executive director Chris Bartlett said.

RSVP to attend the meeting at (215) 732-2220.