Construction is underway on what will be only the nation’s second affordable housing project geared to LGBT seniors (the first is in Hollywood, California), the $19.5 million John C. Anderson Apartments, on 13th Street near Spruce in Washington Square West. The 56 one bedroom unit multi-use project, developed by Pennrose Properties in conjunction with the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, and Gay News publisher Mark Segal (president of the Hirschfeld Fund’s board), will be open by the end of the year. The building, designed by a team from the firm Wallace Roberts and Todd led by project manager Joe Salerno, replaces a parking lot and maintenance facility owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
“There were not a lot of models for this–there really weren’t,” said Pennrose project director Jacob Fisher about LGBT-friendly senior housing. “It feels like we’re living in an age when this kind of project can happen. We can see the change happening before our eyes and this is an exciting icon that people will see and talk about.”
A gay man, John C. Anderson was one of Philadelphia’s most highly respected and energetic leaders and a member of City Council in the early 1980s. He died at 41 of a chronic lung disease in 1984.
“This has been a long-range project,” said the 60 year old Segal. “I started looking at senior issues in the 1990s, trying to find out the needs of LGBT seniors. The first issue that was raised, and it really surprised me, was housing. I was blown away by the sense of need.”
Gay and lesbian elderly, often without children and grandchildren to care for them and now priced out of the neighborhood that’s been the center of the city’s gay life for decades, are the target for the apartment building, which is open by law to anyone.
“I’ve been trying to look into LGBT history, especially our pioneers,” said Segal. “I discovered that these people who had done all that work didn’t have a decent place to live. That probably was the strongest push making this project happen. It’s the community taking care of its most endangered.”
One region’s most experienced developers of affordable housing, Pennrose has built some 4,400 units of senior housing in past three decades and a half. The project, which was initially to be built on the property of and connected to the William Way Center, was funded largely by tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. It also includes a 1,900 square feet of retail or community non-profit space on 13th Street. Pennrose’s management division will own and manage the building, once it’s open.
“From the neighborhood point of view, we’re excited to see life on block,” said the Washington Square West Civic Association’s zoning committee chair Carl Engerle. “It’s been a difficult block–the Parker Hotel next door is one of the biggest sources of problems in the neighborhood–and the parking lot provided zero activity.”
“The neighborhood has been so helpful, so forthcoming,” said Segal. “It’s been an incredible experience–I’ve never had anything like it: the neighbors, the City, the State, the federal government, everyone working together in such a focused way.”
While the Redevelopment Authority stipulated as a condition of the sale to Pennrose that the project would contain retail space, the civic association actively pressed for a use that would increase density and enhance the street vitality of the neighborhood (the civic association has raised some $120,000 to install pedestrian lighting on half the neighborhood’s blocks, and more is to come). They also strongly supported the project’s contemporary design, which is characterized by large windows (with low sills to allow residents to see easily to the street below) and an assemblage of variegated orange prefinished cement fiberboard panels. The four story panel assemblage, which will sit three feet off of the front wall of the building, is meant to help mediate the building’s scale in relation to its neighbors.
“It’s going to make that block look contemporary and alive,” said Segal.
With frontage also on tiny but busy Camac Street, the building scale steps down to meet the intimacy of the street. Metal panels patterned after other neighborhood buildings designed by the architect Cecil Baker, who serves on the civic association’s zoning committee, frame the top story and the roof line.
In addition to the ground floor retail–Fisher said he’s open to ideas for it–the building will have a green courtyard, a partial green roof, and use five percent renewable energy. It will be given an Energy Star 3 rating, meaning it meets the US Environmental Protection Agency’s latest specifications for energy use.
Salerno said the exterior’s contemporary palette and materials are pulled through to the building’s interior spaces. “The intent was to make this much more contemporary than you would do in a typical senior housing project. It’s trying to be clean and modern and I think everybody feels good about that.”
Some of the green design stems from requirements of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which also sets the size and configuration of apartment units and the size of the communal spaces. “PHFA standards are generally good ones, we wouldn’t reach Energy Star without it,” said Salerno. “The bad things you get with PHFA is that they set size of units and they’re not generous in any way. Their rules are aimed at trying to be sure people are not building what’s inappropriate for what the government is spending on. They also determine how quickly a project has to be put into service.” The tax credits, which were purchased by Wells Fargo, have to be used by the end of the year, meaning the project will be completed start to finish in 17 months.
“As an architect you get a lot of not so good projects over the years,” said Salerno. “It is an interesting and dense urban design challenge. The fact is that great opportunities like this one just inspire people like me to want to do more.”
For Donald Carter, the groundbreaking of an LGBT-friendly senior housing facility meant more than just the creation of a facility. It was the culmination of more than 40 years of activism.
"I started this experience as an outlaw, a social outlaw, a sexual outlaw," said Carter, a gay African American who began demonstrating in the 1960s for rights for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.
Now 62, Carter was in attendance as city, state, and federal officials broke ground Friday for the first LGBT-friendly senior housing facility in the nation, the John C. Anderson Apartments on the 200 block of South 13th Street.
Located in the heart of the "gayborhood," the complex will serve low-income seniors. While LGBT-friendly, the complex won't be exclusively for LGBT residents.
The publisher of Philadelphia Gay News and longtime LGBT activist, Mark Segal, pushed the project and said it offered a place for the LGBT community to gather, just as an African American or a Catholic center would.
"We have seniors like Donald Carter, who lives in West Philadelphia, 62 years old," Segal said. "This is his community. Why can't he live in his community with dignity in his golden years?"
The groundbreaking ceremony was held under a tent in the middle of 13th Street in front of the construction site.
Mayor Nutter welcomed the housing to serve the many LGBT advocates in the city since the 1960s.
"Some of those fighters are now entering their golden years," Nutter said. "This center will support people of that generation and others in securing their most basic needs for a good place to call home."
The ceremony also honored six LGBT "pioneers" who signed a pane of glass that will be included in the complex.
Segal said the idea for the facility started about eight years ago and received a push in the last three years when it got state and federal funding.
The six-story, 56-unit complex was originally named the William Way Senior Residences but was renamed for the late John C. Anderson, a city councilman who worked for gay rights.
The $19.5 million project is run through the dmhFund, a nonprofit that supports programs on behalf of the LGBT community, and Pennrose Properties, an affordable housing developer.
The project will be funded through a Philadelphia HOME grant, Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds, and low-income housing tax credits. It will include a 5,000 square-foot courtyard and 2,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.
Segal said that after years of work, he's "ecstatic" that the building will finally be constructed.
"I, right now, am the happiest I probably ever will be in my life," Segal said. "I'm sure there's going to be another milestone, but today made me feel like a proud Philadelphian."
Segal added that he was working with other cities that were looking into similar structures, including San Francisco.
"We're already talking with other cities around the country who either have started already, are in the process, or are basically stuck," Segal said.
Rent will be between $165 and $785 per month depending on the income tier of the resident. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
Philadelphia started construction on the largest public gay building project in the nation.
City officials joined in as the DMH Fund and Penrose Properties broke ground on a low-income senior housing complex.
The six story apartment building will be on South 13th Street.
It's a $19.5 million venture that will be friendly to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
A number of government officials were on hand for the start of the project, among them Congressman Bob Brady, former Philadelphia Mayor John Street and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
"America, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia do best when we're all in it together. When we're one community, one people, respect each other's differences and actually cherish those differences," said Rendell.
Mayor Michael Nutter announced the name for the new building - the John C. Anderson Apartments. It comes in honor of the former gay Philadelphia city councilman that was instrumental in the passage of the City's civil rights bill.
Randy Wicker, organizer of the first ever gay rights march in the U.S., Ada Bello, who led the first gay and lesbian pickets at Independence Hall, and Jim Fouratt, founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, were all in attendance.
"I was amazed to see the elected officials, particularly of color who were not afraid to stand up and say we are your family too" said Fouratt.
Several attendees left their signatures on a plaque which will become a fixture in the new apartment building.
PHILADELPHIA – The Board of Directors of the William Way LGBT Community Center voted on Tuesday to withdrawal its partnership with the dmhFund in building an LGBT friendly senior housing facility at Community Center site. The board cited the need to move forward expeditiously with specific building renovations and its strategic planning process, which would have been interrupted had they continued to move forward with the project.
The dmhFund understands the need of the William Way Center to move forward with its strategic planning process and respects the Board of Directors' decision to end its involvement as a partner in the LGBT friendly Senior Housing project," said dmhFund President Mark Segal.
The dmhFund has been exploring other locations for the senior housing facility and intends to move forward with the project at another site. We look forward to working with the William Way Center in providing services for residents once the building is completed. We are also committed to supporting the William Way Center as it embarks on a critical capital fundraising campaign."
The dmhFund was established in 2004 to fund a variety of programs that foster education about HIV/AIDS, fight prejudice and discrimination, and deliver services to youth, seniors, and diverse constituencies within the LGBT community in the Philadelphia region.
The dmhFund is currently spearheading a unique project that will provide affordable housing to elders in a way that is friendly to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and allied community. The new construction project would provide as many as 70 affordable housing units for low-income seniors in the heart of the Philadelphia Gayborhood in a way that is safe and welcoming to members of the LGBT community.
If you read PGN’s website last week, you might have read the story regarding the William Way Senior Residence project, which hopes to create an LGBT-friendly affordable living facility here in Philadelphia.
It’s a massive project that has many components and many steps to climb before it can become a reality. Last week, we hit our first speed bump along the road.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded its tax credits for this cycle, and our project was not on it. Those credits are critical for this kind of project. Unfortunately for us, this cycle was one of the most competitive in history. Not only were we not awarded, neither was a project from Sister Mary Scullion of Project H.O.M.E., the poster person of affordable housing. So we, like Scullion, will re-submit in the October cycle, some 90 days from now.
In those 90 days, we will meet with PHFA agency staff and find ways to make our proposal stronger. We’ll discuss changes with our partners and reach out to our advisory board.
If you are a fighter for equality or an activist, you know the battle is not over until we win. Nothing comes easy, and our seniors deserve our full efforts — and from us they have it. We continue to march full-steam ahead.
My fellow dmhFund board member stated it best: “This process has put the need for LGBT senior housing on the radar screen of many in Philadelphia for the first time, which also raises awareness of other issues LGBT elders deal with. So this application has had a positive impact in our community.”
And we continue!
Backers of the proposed William Way Senior Residences announced this week that the project was not among the list of housing programs selected for tax credits from the state.
Had it been selected, the tax credit could have generated about $12 million in equity for the program, which would offer low-income LGBT-friendly senior housing in a building adjoining the William Way LGBT Community Center.
Organizers will have the opportunity to apply again in the coming months.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded eight projects in Philadelphia County with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Among the local awards were two for projects geared toward the elderly, the 64-unit St. Maron Hall at Ninth and Ellsworth streets and the Westminster Senior Apartments in the 500 block of N. 52nd St.
Approximately 55 percent of the PHFA tax credits are set aside for six specific regions, with the rest going to fund areas such as preservation, supportive housing and strategic investment. Of the regional set-asides, approximately 18.73 percent is allocated to Region 1, which includes Philadelphia and the four surrounding counties.
The regional set-asides are further divided statewide by purpose, with 55 percent of the allocation devoted to general housing and 45 percent for senior occupancy, although PHFA cautioned that those numbers can be adjusted based on need. Thirty-three projects were selected for the credits throughout the state, with 12 devoted to the elderly, approximately 36 percent.
The Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, which is spearheading the William Way project along with development company Pennrose Properties, will have 90 days to reapply.
Jacob Fisher, Pennrose development officer, said projects often have to apply three times for the tax credit before they’re approved.
“We know that it’s a highly, highly competitive resource,” he said. “And there are a lot of good projects out there. So it can be difficult to get funded the first time around.”
Organizers will meet with PHFA representatives in the next few weeks to review the original application and receive feedback on strengthening it.
“We’ll take that to heart and put together an even tighter package next time around,” Fisher said. “Pennrose is still very excited about serving as a development partner on this job with dmhFund, and we have every reason to believe this deal is fundable and can and will receive an allocation in the future.”
At a press conference to announce the development this week, Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way LGBT Community Center, said the center’s board will discuss another application at its June 26 public meeting.
Larry Felzer, director of development at SeniorLAW Center, noted that as the project progresses through its planning stages, it’s fueling discussion on the challenges LGBT seniors face.
“This project has put the need for LGBT senior housing on the radar screen of many in Philadelphia for the first time, which also raises awareness of other issues LGBT elders deal with,” Felzer said.
The board of directors of the William Way LGBT Community Center agreed this week to move forward on a proposed project that would create affordable senior residences connected to the center.
After a several-month review process, the board voted Tuesday night to proceed with the William Way Senior Residences, a plan unveiled in the fall by the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund.
Construction could begin sometime in mid-2012, and will result in the establishment of about 70 apartments for low-income LGBT and ally seniors and a wealth of renovations to the community center.
The board said last year it needed time to review the specifics for the project and its impact on the center, and spent several months examining the proposal, hired Regional Housing Legal Services to consult, had an assessment of the property conducted and held two town-hall meetings to discuss the proposal with the community.
“The board’s final decision was based upon its assessment that the multiple benefits of the project will strongly serve our community members, our building and our programs,” said William Way executive director Chris Bartlett.
The agreement approved this week stipulated that about $6 million will go toward renovations to the community center: The front portion of the building will undergo a full rehabilitation, costing about $2.6 million, with the rest of the renovation funds devoted to the demolition and reconstruction of portions of the back of the building.
“This is a watershed moment for the center,” Bartlett said. “Since its inception 35 years ago, the center has continually grown and adapted to meet the needs of LGBT people in the Delaware Valley. As part of our near future, we are excited that we can envision a shining new community center, with new and expanded space, as a symbol of the growing strength and contributions of the LGBT community in our region.”
The adjoining senior residences, Bartlett noted, will be invaluable in connecting local seniors to the center’s programming. He noted both youth and adult programming are currently being expanded so that the center can offer a “powerful intergenerational experience.”
The project has a price tag of approximately $20 million and, so far, the city approved $2 million in funding. Former Gov. Ed Rendell also extended $7 million in state funds.
For the center, the project will result in an additional 3,000 square footage — including an expanded ballroom, a new catering kitchen and library and archive space — as well as the addition of a 700-square-foot courtyard.
During construction, the center’s operations will be relocated for an estimated 18 months. The move and cost of rent at another venue — which Bartlett said has not yet been selected but will be in Center City — will be covered by the project.
Construction company Pennrose will own the new building, while the center will continue as the owner of the William Way property and the grounds on which both are located.
“The center will have the opportunity to be involved in the operations of the low-income senior-housing units, but will not be responsible for it,” Bartlett said. “Pennrose will be responsible, but we’ll be able to participate in conversations about what it looks like.”
The government funding that has so far been pledged would require the property to offer affordable housing for 30 years, after which time Bartlett said the center and Pennrose will have the opportunity to renegotiate the agreement.
Mark Segal, president of the Hirschfeld Fund and PGN publisher, welcomed the board’s approval and the members’ thorough review of the proposal.
“We are thrilled to have William Way on board fully as partners,” Segal said. “We thank them for their due diligence and process in making sure that every T was crossed and every I was dotted.”
Center board president Jeff Sotland, who estimated the board dedicated hundreds of hours to examining the project in the past few months, said the organization is committed to working for the best interests of the center and the community, and will continue to value community input as the project moves forward.
“While we understand that not everyone will agree with our decision or will have reservations, we know that we have undertaken a serious due diligence as the stewards of the [center] and that we have presented a well-reasoned explanation for our decision,” he said. “As we now move into our strategic development planning phase for the next five years, we welcome everyone to participate and help us determine the type of community center you want us to be and how we can best serve you in the coming years.”
The Fund next month plans to submit its final application to the state for tax credits, and the state has until July to respond to the request. Segal said the plan will then go “full-speed ahead,” with Pennrose and the center coming together to work out floor plans and building designs, which is expected to take several months.
Organizers plan to close the deal either late in 2011 or in the first quarter of 2012, and to begin construction within six months.
The board of directors of the William Way LGBT Community Center voted unanimously this week to give conditional approval for plans to proceed on the proposed LGBT senior residences.
The board voted unanimously Monday night to allow builder Pennrose Property to move ahead with its preliminary funding applications for the project, but the two must come to a final agreement by March 1 in order for the board to give its final stamp of approval.
Center executive director Chris Bartlett said the board will analyze a range of factors throughout the next four months.
“This conditional approval gives the board time to address a broad range of issues of concern,” he said, including aspects like “gaining further input from community stakeholders, ensuring appropriate compensation to the center for its property and for any potential temporary relocation costs, ensuring that the center continues to own all of the current footprint of the property, ensuring approval of all architectural plans and resolution of other concerns raised by the board and its stakeholders.”
The proposed William Way Senior Residences, an initiative announced earlier this year by the Dr. Magnus Hirschfield Fund, would house about 70 affordable apartments for low-income seniors. The residences would comprise an 11-story structure situated behind and above the existing community center, and the building proposal would include renovations to the center as well.
Bartlett said the board is eager to garner feedback from the public about the initiative before it comes to a final decision.
“We continue to proceed with cautious optimism and due diligence and look forward to engaging seniors, community members and other key stakeholders in these deliberations in the months ahead,” he said.
The proposal also saw a funding victory last week.
The City’s Office of Housing and Community Development released the names of the grantees of its most recent funding cycle, and the proposed senior residences was on the list.
The project will get $2 million in OHCD funding, out of a pool of about $8.5 million that was split among several other initiatives.
Mark Segal, dmhFund president and PGN publisher, said the grant is a big boon for the project.
“We at dmhFund thank [OHCD] for, after careful review of the numerous submissions received in this funding cycle, selecting our proposal of the William Way Senior Residences for funding,” Segal said. “This dream for our community is a step closer, thanks to their support.”
Last month, the state approved a $7-million allocation for the project.
No doubt by now you’ve seen or heard about the proposed LGBT-friendly, affordable senior housing project that I’ve been involved with. And this past Monday, we had a major victory. For the first time in our commonwealth’s history, a capitol project that benefits our community was appropriated in legislation that passed the Pennsylvania Senate, was ratified by the House and was sent to the governor for his signature.
The amount was $7 million, but that’s not the whole story. The funds are matching, meaning you must have another source to match those given under this allocation. Like almost every other senior project of this nature, you apply for funds from various sources to match.
That is the short story, but it’s one step on this road that we’re all traveling, or as I like to say: It’s just one more brick on the building, and we have many more bricks until the building’s complete.
But to get this far, you need friends, people who really support this community. You also need political leadership, courage and a vision. We’ve been very lucky in that area.
First up to bat was Gov. Rendell. He’s been onboard for over a year. He was the first to commit funds. He even laid out the plan for us, and assured us if we went his route, which we did, he’d be able to get us what we need. Thanks to him, we’re a week ahead of schedule.
Next was the state House of Representatives. There, our city’s delegation and the Democratic leadership came through. But a special thanks has to go to the man who literally shepherded this project through the House, state Rep. Mike O’Brien. When I say shepherd, I guess I mean taking me from one office to another and knowing when to get me out of those offices. If you read this column, you’ve read about my trips to Harrisburg. Each and every one of those was at the suggestion of Mike.
Mike took an instant interest in this project from the moment he heard about it. He already had an interest in senior services, but when he learned about the special needs, discrimination and abuse of LGBT seniors and the lack of any facility, something clicked in him and it became his passion. He was there night and day, seven days a week.
He accomplished something that was almost unthinkable. Almost every elected official he and I approached on this project not only supports it, they have enthusiasm for it. How do I know this? On several occasions, I somehow thought that pivotal people were becoming soft on its funding. They made sure they got me on the phone and told me personally of their reconfirmed support, or called to express anger at a call they received that was not supportive. It’s the first time I’ve seen the Philadelphia Democratic Party completely go to bat for an LGBT project. Let me amend that. It’s the first time I’ve seen almost every elected official in Philadelphia adopt an LGBT project as their own. This is their baby, not just ours. There is much more that could be included here and many more heroes that can be pointed out — you can be sure that over the next few months they will. But at this moment, a moment in American history that is so negative, let’s just stop and thank those who won’t give in to the negative but rather have a vision of a brighter future — one that includes our LGBT elders.
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.
The Capital Budget Itemization Act of 2010/2011 (HB 2291) passed the PA State Senate and was ratified by the House yesterday. It included $7 million for a partnership between the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, Pennrose Properties and the William Way LGBT Community Center to create the William Way Senior Residences.
The William Way Senior Residences will be new construction of 70 affordable housing units for low-income seniors as well as the renovation of the existing WWCC. The project would allow the existing structure of the WWCC to be fully rehabilitated to allow the space to continue serving the LGBT community with services and programs.
The following stats are from the William Way Senior Residences Facebook page:
“Never before has our government allocated such a large sum of money for a brick and mortar LGBT friendly project,” says Mark Segal, President of the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund. “We still have a long way to go to make this project a reality, but yesterday we took a big step.”