Construction of Florence apartment complex begins

By Amy Reynolds

FLORENCE — An elegant brick structure in its day, and home to generations of boisterous schoolchildren, the decommissioned Marcella L. Duffy School began its official transformation into an apartment complex this week.

On Tuesday evening, community leaders and elected state and local officials celebrated the ground-breaking for the West Second Street project, a news release stated.

By spring 2015, the two story structure will become a 53-unit affordable senior citizen apartment complex, a project that will cost about $14 million.

“The Duffy School is a shining example of how federal, state, local and private enterprises can collaborate to construct high-quality affordable housing for senior citizens living on low, fixed incomes in New Jersey,” state Department of Community Affairs commissioner Richard Constable stated in the news release.

Constable also serves as chairman of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA).

The project developers, Conifer Realty, and Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development were awarded tax credits by the state, providing 71 percent of the funding for the redevelopment of the Duffy School.

“As the population is aging, we are seeing increased need for quality facilities that cater to the specific needs of low-income seniors to help them age in place,” DCA spokeswoman Tammori Petty said.

The apartment complex, in addition to providing affordable housing, will have a lasting economic impact on the Burlington County community, Petty said.

The state housing and mortgage agency estimates that the project will generate a one-time economic output of $22.3 million and will create 133 full-time jobs during construction.

Once completed, the apartment complex will provide more than $2.5 million in ongoing economic output and approximately 14 full-time jobs annually, the news release stated.

The development is a functional re-use of the historic school building, Petty said.

The building itself will be converted into 35 apartment units and the construction of an additional building will provide 18 units.

All units will be handicap-accessible and building amenities will include a community room, fitness center, library, craft room and entertainment facility.

“This project will give senior citizens the opportunity to age comfortably in place and maintain a sense of independence,” housing and mortgage agency Executive Director Anthony Marchetta said in the release.

All of the units in the complex will be affordable, Petty said.

Of the 53 units, seven will be available to households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the area median income, and five will be reserved for homeless seniors.

Of the units remaining, 25 will be for households with incomes at or below 50 percent median income; and 21 will be used for households with incomes at or below 60 percent of median income.

“Adaptive-reuse projects like this serve as a catalyst for advancing economic development and encouraging further redevelopment in New Jersey’s municipalities,” Marchetta said.