MEND and Conifer Realty Hold Groundbreaking

Representatives from Moorestown Ecumenical Neighborhood Development (MEND) and its joint-venture development partner, Conifer Realty, LLC along with Township officials and other project partners held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of Duffy School Apartments – a 53-unit, $14.2 million affordable rental housing community for seniors – located at the historic Marcella L. Duffy Elementary School.

The project, designed to provide below-market rental units for low and moderate income senior citizens and adults with special needs aged 62+, is expected to be ready for occupancy in spring 2015. It’s anticipated that 133 full-time construction jobs will be created throughout the construction period.

“The start of construction at Duffy School Apartments is a perfect way for MEND to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of our founding in July 1969,” said Matt Reilly, President and CEO of MEND. “We continue to vigorously pursue our affordable housing mission which is now needed more than ever.”

Duffy School Apartments will feature 35 units housed in the existing Marcella L. Duffy Elementary School Building and 18 units located in a new, three-story addition that will be attached to the eastern side of the former school. Constructed using green building practices, units are equipped with Energy Star rated appliances and light fixtures, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and water-saving plumbing features. Spacious and accessible floor plans, wall to wall carpeting in bedrooms and living rooms, and ceramic tile bathrooms are featured.

Initial pricing for the 53 one-bedroom apartments are expected to range from $296-$813 per month but will not be finalized until the rent-up period begins in 2015. Income restrictions apply.

The elementary school was initially built in 1924 as an expansion of structures that were built in the late 19th century. The building has been vacant and unused since 2007 and will now be renovated and designated as a National and State Historic Landmark building.

Key architectural elements of the school will be preserved, including the building façade, original main entry and the auditorium/gymnasium/stage area. Much of the building’s original tin ceilings will either be preserved or replaced with matching new tin ceilings. Windows are being replaced with windows that are similar in appearance and design to the original windows.

According to Charles M. Lewis, Senior Vice President, Conifer Realty, LLC, “The conversion of the Duffy School into senior housing allows us to preserve an architectural treasure that has been an important part of the lives of so many people in Florence.”

The project is being funded through: $12.9 million in low-income tax credits from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA); $1 million contributed from Florence Township’s municipal housing trust fund; and a $300,000 federal HOME loan from the Burlington County Community Development Office.

Additional key project partners include: Township of Florence; Red Stone Equity Partners/TD Bank; Kramer Marks Architects; Stout & Caldwell Engineers and Surveyors; MaGrann Associates; Conifer-LeChase Construction; and Gary F. Gardner, Inc..