Affordable housing project coming to Florence

By Chris Bishop Staff Writer

FLORENCE — A long-awaited affordable housing project will get a step closer to fruition with a groundbreaking that will lead to the conversion of the old Marcella L. Duffy School into a 53-unit senior rental community.

The Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development and its joint-venture partner, Conifer Realty, of Rochester, New York, will hold the ceremony to mark the start of construction at 5 p.m. Tuesday at 225 W. Second St.

Called the Duffy School Apartments, it will provide below-market rental units for low- and moderate-income senior citizens and adults with special needs. The project is expected to be ready for occupancy next spring.

Mayor Craig Wilkie and local representatives are expected to attend.

Officials said 35 of the apartments will be in the old school. The remaining 18 will be in a new three-story addition that will be attached to the eastern side of the building, which fronts on West Second Street.

The elementary school, built in 1924, was an expansion of structures built in the late 19th century. The building has been vacant since 2007 and will be renovated and designated as a national and state historic landmark.

The $14.5 million project will entail preserving the historic integrity of the structure.

In April, the municipality officially turned over the property to MEND for $1, according to tax records.

Leasing information provided by Conifer said a one-bedroom apartment at 750 square feet will cost $696 a month; a two-bedroom unit at 1,100 square feet will cost $652 to $820 a month; and a three-bedroom rental at 1,400 square feet will cost $741 to $935 per month.

Leases are for 12 months, and a security deposit of 1½ months rent is required, according to the company’s website.

The nonprofit MEND develops, builds, owns and manages affordable rental housing in Burlington County. Founded in 1969 by nine Moorestown churches, the agency has grown into an experienced agency in New Jersey.

For more information, call Conifer at 855-855-8954 or email

Chris Bishop: 609-871-8140; email:; Twitter: @chrisleebishop