NewCourtland Senior Services is almost ready to start construction on a $22 million, seven-story apartment building and day center for older adults on the former site of St. Bartholomew School in Wissinoming.
During the monthly meeting of the Wissinoming Civic Association on Nov. 29, R. Max Kent, an associate vice president for the nonprofit senior services provider, told neighbors that demolition of the old school building is ahead of schedule and due for completion within the next week. The first of three construction phases will begin in January and is expected to continue for 18 months. That phase will include a 14,000-square-foot “LIFE” center and 43 apartments for low-income folks 55 and older. Ultimately, the new construction will feature 173,000 square feet of floorspace and 144 apartment units.
Neighbors unanimously endorsed the project last March during that month’s civic association meeting.
“The new building will replicate the old building in a lot of ways,” said Kent.
NewCourtland is a subsidiary of the Presbyterian Foundation for Philadelphia. The agency announced its purchase of the former Catholic school from the parish in June. Terms of the sale were not disclosed and are not reflected in the city’s online property records for the 5364 Jackson St. address.
The land measures about 1.5 acres and is separate from the still-active St. Bart’s church. A former convent positioned between the church and former school property has been sold to a private owner and remains vacant.
Due to financial pressures, St. Bart’s School closed its doors in 2005. A charter school later occupied the building, but it abruptly closed its doors on about 300 students in October 2014 amid alleged financial irregularities and poor academic performance.
The church itself has long been the subject of closure rumors due to declining membership and financial pressures, but the NewCourtland deal has helped solidify the parish’s standing, according to WCA President John Barnes.
During last week’s civic meeting, Kent described some of the eligibility terms for residents of the new apartment building and for those wishing to use the senior center. The center will not be open to all older folks. It will serve only those enrolled in the state-subsidized Living Independence For the Elderly program. The Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging will perform eligibility assessments based on the applicant’s medical and activities needs.
The program is meant to help older people remain in their homes and avoid having to move to nursing facilities. The day center will offer medical appointments, rehabilitation services, meals and social activities. NewCourtland will be able to transport clients to and from home. The agency will provide certain in-home services, too.
Eligibility for the apartments is based on the income level of the prospective resident. A resident cannot make more than 50 percent of the median income for the surrounding area. Residents will have to pay one-third of their income toward their rent. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development will subsidize each resident’s remaining rent obligation via the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
Regarding the demolition work, Kent said that the contractor removed asbestos from the site to prevent contamination during the full-scale deconstruction. The contractor also removed underground fuel tanks from the site to prevent future contamination. The contractor did not find contaminated soil.
The construction will be performed by union contractors who will employ non-discriminatory hiring practices for the job, Kent said. Applications will be accepted at a management trailer on site.
NewCourtland has not begun to accept job applications for the LIFE center. It plans to host a job fair, but has not chosen a date or location.
The agency has not begun to accept resident applications. Once the application process opens, NewCourtland expects to create a waiting list of eligible applicants. Those with specific needs will be afforded priority admission to the building, Kent said. ••