The sites of two major fires in downtown Bellefonte could be transformed into apartments as soon as 2015, thanks to federal tax credits and funding awarded this week to a local developer.
Ara Kervandjian received almost $2 million in federal tax credits and PennHOMES funding this week to build affordable, multiple family dwellings where the Garman Theater and Hotel Do De once stood, and where the shell of the Cadillac Building remains.
Kervandjian called the funding for his Bellefonte Mews development a “huge win for the families displaced by terrible fires and for historic Bellefonte.”
He previously purchased the buildings and planned to turn them into 32 workforce housing apartments. The timeline for the project has become more clear now that the project has been awarded federal funding.
Kervandjian said he hopes design work is finished by the end of the year, groundbreaking happens by early 2015 and the project is done by the end of that year.
“We’re ecstatic that things are starting to take shape,” Borough Manger Ralph Stewart said.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced that 24 affordable housing projects across the state will be built with this round of federal tax credits and funding.
“Affordable, quality housing should not be a dream for Pennsylvania families, it must be a reality,” Corbett said in a statement. “Through this combination of tax credits and PennHOMES funding, we are creating a stronger Pennsylvania.”
The tax credits are administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and were approved by its board.
“These low-income housing tax credits are the best investment tool available to us to support the construction of affordable rental housing across Pennsylvania,” said Brian Hudson Sr., PHFA executive director and CEO.
Hudson attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony this month for another project developed by Kervandjian.
Kervandjian received low-income tax credits to finance Limerock Terrace in College Township, and now rents the homes out to families who make 60-, 50- and, in some cases, 20-percent of the area’s median income, he previously said.
Hudson said the process that led to the development is “exactly the model we want to use, not only in the commonwealth, but across the nation.”
“The need for affordable housing is what we’re fulfilling,” Kervandjian said Friday of the projects.
Stewart said the Bellefonte development will bring new families and businesses to downtown, will add to the tax rolls and will replace historic buildings that were unfortunately destroyed by fires.
“We’re moving forward filling that (space), putting new structures, new people, new families into the community,” Stewart said.
Kervandjian and Stewart both said they hope the projects will attract more developments to the borough.
“He is the first major developer to come in recent years,” Stewart said. “Obviously we’re in the middle of the waterfront (project), looking to attract developers. Just the news that downtown is going to have some holes filled, bringing people into town (will help).”