Developer pitches senior housing to new council

It’s been several years since the Warren City Council took steps to lend its support to a proposed senior housing complex on the corner of Liberty Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Warren.

Kelley Coey, director of development for Hudson Companies, pitched the Eagles Crest project to the current council during Monday night’s meeting.

The project aims to create a building with 40 units of senior housing — 35 one bedroom and five two bedrooms, as well as a variety of amenities. It will be open to those 62 and older and will carry income requirements.

“We serve 60 percent and below of the area median income,” she said, or a maximum income of $27,360 for a single or $31,000 for a couple.

“When we saw this project on Penn Avenue it seemed like it needed to blend in with the retail and commercial (business) in the area” and make sure it “follows the rhythm and architecture of the downtown,” Coey said.

She explained that the first thing the company does is undertake a market analysis to identify the need in the area.

“There were over 1,150 income- and age-eligible households for this project,” she said. “That is a significant amount.”

The project has been proposed to be funded primarily with state tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. Coey said the deadline to apply is the end of June with awards to be announced in the fall.

“If we are awarded in the fall,” Coey said, “we will immediately move into the permitting and approval stage.” The goal, she said, would be to start construction in 2023 with the project completed in summer or fall 2024.

But those credits need to be awarded first. Coey explained about 100 entities apply and about one-third are funded. This will mark the fourth time this project has been submitted.

“We don’t take these projects lightly in submitting them,” she stressed. “(It) costs us $100,000 to $150,000 to submit an application… and that’s every year.”

Councilwoman Wendy McCain said it “doesn’t appear to me the residents have disposable income” and questioned the economic benefit to the project.

“Seniors… participate in the community,” Coey said, and “shop, function just as any other citizen would in a community.”

McCain also asked about potential shortfalls in the budget for the project.

“We are still working through the budget,” Coey said, but couldn’t rule out the possibility that the company might ask the city for funding for the project.

“PHFA likes to invest in cities that invest in themselves,” she stressed. “Most of our projects do that.”That can mean waived permit fees, cash, or contribution of land. She cited the city’s contribution of the property and parking space as a show of support for the project.

Mayor Dave Wortman asked if there are any common themes regarding why the project has not yet been funded.

“(A) gigantic one is politics,” Coey said, as well as the scoring of the application and the amount of available tax credits.

She asked for letters of support from council, the mayor and the city manager to be included with the application.

The council didn’t take any action in that direction during Monday’s meeting but Mayor Wortman said they “know what the timeline looks like.”