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Senior apartments replace St. Bart’s school

The site features 42 affordable apartments for senior citizens who wish to age in their homes.

Home, sweet home: The NewCourtland Senior Community at St. Bart’s is located at the site of the former St. Bartholomew Elementary School, 5364 Jackson St. in Wissinoming. The new six-story facility also includes a Living Independently for the Elderly Center. Source: NewCourtland

Mayor Jim Kenney was among those on hand last week for the official grand opening of the NewCourtland Senior Community at St. Bart’s.

The site features 42 affordable, one-bedroom apartments, each with a kitchen, for senior citizens.

Located at the site of the former St. Bartholomew Elementary School, 5364 Jackson St. in Wissinoming, the new six-story facility also includes a Living Independently for the Elderly (LIFE) Center, which provides healthcare and supportive services for low-income seniors who wish to remain in their own homes.

Denver-based InnovAge oversees LIFE centers.

“This is a phenomenal center,” said Maureen Hewitt, president and CEO of InnovAge. “People want to age in place. They don’t want to be institutionalized.”

The building is part of NewCourtland’s 15-year plan to build 2,000 apartments for seniors in Philadelphia, helping to address what the agency sees is a critical need for safe and affordable housing for Philadelphia’s aging population.

Guests at the grand opening were able to view the NewCourtland Artist Fellowship exhibit, which showcases original works of art created by seniors and local students under the tutelage of professional artists. The Art is Ageless exhibit will be on display through Aug. 17, and there is permanent art throughout the building.

Other amenities include a fitness room, multi-purpose rooms, laundry facilities, a clinic and bright dayrooms.

The rent for residents is 30 percent of their income, and utilities are included.

NewCourtland plans 100 more apartments for the site. There is a waiting list of 200 people.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency provided some funding, and its Eastern Region director, Nancy Twyman, said the building meets energy-efficient standards.

Kenney was happy that more than 80 jobs were created, and $60 million was invested. He believes this was a perfect repurposing of a Catholic school that closed, especially considering the growing senior population in Philadelphia.

“It’s really nice to be able to stay in your neighborhood,” he said.

Philadelphia Housing Authority President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah also helped celebrate the grand opening.

Jeremiah credited Gail Kass, president and CEO of NewCourtland Senior Services, for a job well done. The PHA and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development provided subsidies for the apartments.

Jeremiah said the building allows baby boomers to retire and live with dignity in an affordable apartment with support services.

“What a spectacular development,” he said. “Gail and NewCourtland have really done it again.”

Ben Laudermilch, executive housing director for the state Department of Human Services’ Office of Social Programs, said there is a “graying population.” He said the NewCourtland “playbook” of matching affordable housing with services and support should be a model.

“It really makes a whole lot of sense,” he said.

Kass recognized Sister Maureen McGarrity, president of Holy Family University. NewCourtand will be redeveloping the former Liddonfield housing project property, with up to 300 apartments for seniors.

The name has been changed to Pennypack to erase the negative image Liddonfield had, and there will be a groundbreaking in the fall for new athletic fields for Holy Family.

“We look forward to this partnership,” Sister Maureen said. ••

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