The former Highlands School District administration building in Harrison may be transformed into a housing development for senior citizens by 2020.
Harrison Commissioners approved the building on 11th Avenue in Natrona Heights for a conditional use as senior housing.
That came after a public hearing at which Andrew Haines, executive vice-president of Gatesburg Road Development, developer of the project, presented plans for the site. Haines said his is the same company that converted the former Ridge Avenue Junior High School in New Kensington into senior citizen housing.
The $10 million project in Harrison calls for a three-story addition on the back of the current building, built in 1930, which will be gutted and converted to senior housing use.
Haines said the development would offer 20 single bedroom apartments, and ten two-bedroom units with five units designed for handicapped residents. Haines said the rents would range from $300 to $850 per month.
He said all residents, including spouses, must be at least 62 years old to live in the development.
Also, he said all prospective residents will undergo criminal background checks as well as credit checks as part of the application process.
Gatesburg, based in State College, does not yet own the property, according to Haines.
He said the company has a sales agreement in place with the property’s current owners Joseph Thimons and John Barch. However, that will not become final until Gatesburg secures financing for the project through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Haines explained that if PHFA approves the project, it will provide Gatesburg with a package of tax credits. Gatesburg can then sell those tax credits to private investors to raise the money needed to build the project.
“We take the equity from those credits and that pays about 70 percent of the development costs,” Haines said.
“We will know in May of 2019 if we are awarded funding,” he added.
If the funding is secured, he said Gatesburg would close on the property within a couple of months and then submit its land development plan for approval by the township.
“We probably would not have these ready for occupancy until 2020,” Haines said.
Marlene Huet of Buffalo Township was at the meeting with her son, Tom, and said she is very interested in living in the proposed development.
“My son has his own house in Sarver and I don’t want my son to have to take care of his house and then take care of mine like he does now,” Huet said of why the development interested her.
Another reason is it will be like going home.
“I grew up on 12th Avenue,” Huet said.
Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.