Roberta Machin, BA
October 4th marked a historical day for Phoenixville, as construction officially commenced on the new 3.2 acre affordable housing development, SteelTown Village. The $13 million project, developed by Petra Community Housing, will feature 48 units of affordable one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, which will house veterans, persons with disabilities, workforce families, and the elderly.
Proposed in response to the need for more affordable housing options for low-income families in Chester County, the project faced several years of setbacks, including resistance from neighbors and soil contamination. After numerous meetings, environmental analyses, and soil remediation, final approval for the project was granted in March.
Steve Kambic, executive director of Petra, led the groundbreaking ceremony on the morning of October 4th. He compared the initiation of the project and its setbacks to “herding cats across a minefield – and then someone lets out a pack of dogs.” After identifying the property Kambic wanted to use for the project, which was not initially for sale, Kambic pushed forward because he believed in the mission, despite the obstacles he knew would come.
Also in attendance at the ceremony was Jim Kovaleski, Phoenixville Borough Council President, who played a large role in addressing the complaints from the neighbors. “I live a few minutes from here,” he said, “and I always saw this field, which has done nothing for years. Now, it will do something great.”
Funding for the project came from a number of sources, including $1 million from the county, $9 million in equity from Fulton Bank, $10,000 from Phoenixville Community Health Foundation, as well as other grants, private funders, and low income housing tax credits. Holly Glauser from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency said that it was unusual for a first time applicant to receive a low income housing tax credit. Lou Beccaria from the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation added, “This project is a symbol of hope for low-income families and a great example of how the community of Phoenixville comes together and leaves no one behind. It takes a village to raise a village.”
Other notable guest speakers included Commissioners Michelle Kichline and Kathi Cozzone. According to Commissioner Kichline, the county has put more than $6.7 million into Phoenixville in the last 15 years. “Phoenixville is known for its vibrant downtown area, and we all know that the diverse population of people who will come to live here will contribute to a thriving Phoenixville community,” she said. Added Commissioner Cozzone, “As one of the wealthiest counties in the state and nation, Chester County is sought after when it comes to finding a place to live. But the truth is — not everyone can afford to live here. We can’t stress enough the importance of affordable housing in places like Phoenixville.”
Long-time proponent of affordable housing in Phoenixville and honored guest Don Coppedge concluded the ceremony. “Oh, what a day!” said Coppedge. “We are all blessed to be standing here today as a part of history. It takes not one individual, because we are here to share our gifts. This is about what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives — to help people make it a better place to live. This is only the beginning — there’s a lot to be done. Let’s make it the community that we can. Phoenixville is the best!”