Kennett Square backs senior housing project

The Creamery on Birch Street

If all goes as planned, a low-income housing project for seniors will become a reality in Kennett Square in a little more than two years.

Kennett Square councilors Monday night looked with favor on a plan that would convert the old Creamery Building on East Birch Street into a 61-unit senior citizen housing complex. The developers of the project, the Ingerman Group, plan to work closely with the borough's historic commission to retain as much as the integrity of the building as possible.

"The planning commission to a person supports this project," said Brant Kucera, borough manager.

"The Intergen Coalition is totally supportive of this plan," said Councilor Jessie Cocks.

The plan still needs to clear several major hurdles. The site is zoned industrial, so council must either rezone the area or apply a zoning change overlay. Either way, the developers must apply for a conditional use. But with council's blessing Monday, that hurdle is mainly a formality.

Plans call for three stories of apartments. The building is only 2 1/2 stories, but there will be an addition to the building to create more space. It will be 54 one-bedroom apartments and seven two-bedroom apartments. There will be an interior court that will consist of community gardens. The developers plan to create 49 parking spaces, but some council members feel this isn't enough.

"I'm all for senior housing, but parking is a major concern," said Councilor John Thomas. "There's no place to park on Birch Street."

David Holden, director of development for the Ingerman Group, said the complex would provide independent living for seniors. He said there will be on-site management with 24-hour backup and monthly rents would be in the $450- to $800-per-month range. The units would be available to seniors age 62 or older whose annual income is $18,500 to $50,000.

"I'm supportive of the idea of developing that area, but $50,000 is a lot and it won't even get you into Luther House," said resident Charla Watson. Many councilors felt the $50,000 limit does not qualify as "low income."

Holden said one resident must be at least 62, and the other 21 or over. He said most residents in these types of developments sign on in their 70s and stay until they need a higher level of care, or die.

The Ingerman Group will now submit their application before the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which should take six or seven month to review, and if all goes well, construction could start by the end of next year.

"I think the concept is great," Thomas said.

"It seems like a win-win," said Council President David Miller. "That area of town is desperate for development."

The Ingerman Group, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., has built about 60 successful affordable housing developments in the Mid-Atlantic region. The group works with local conservation and "green" building organizations. The Group can offer below-market rates because it works closely with the federal government to receive tax credits.

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