The Tamaqua Zoning Hearing Board approved the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership's request variances for a property at 420 East Broad St. As a result, the Partnership and the Alliance for Building Communities (ABC) will move forward with converting the building into 11 town home style apartments.

Ralph J. Melone, AIA, of Melone Architects of Wilkes-Barre addressed the board on behalf of the Partnership. "The building was built around 1920 as a social hall," he explained. In recent years, the building housed Timber Ridge Archery and the Body Basics gym. According to Melone, much of the original structure is in good shape. "The ground floor was for parking originally. There is still a garage door there," he said. The plans for the building include reestablishing a parking area on the ground floor that will contain 12 parking spaces. An additional three parking spaces will be available outside of the building. Tenants will be able to access their units directly from the garage area.

The building will contain 11 bedroom unit, 42 bedroom units, and 63 bedroom units. The two and three bedroom units will have living and dining room area and a kitchen on the first floor. The three bedroom units will also have an additional bedroom on the first floor. The units will then have two bedrooms on the second floor. There will also be an office area, a computer lounge, and a kitchenette common area for the residents.

According to Melone, the exterior of the building will be restored to look as it originally did. "There will be 100 percent repointing on the outside, the paint will be stripped, all of the brick will be restored. The wood frame pieces will be restored," he said. A part of the second floor that had been removed by a previous owner will also be rebuilt.

Melone added that according to the zoning requirements, the minimum lot size for medium density housing is one acre. The lot is only 12,000 square feet. Such a building would also require 30 parking spaces and need to meet setback requirements of 75 feet in the front, 20 feet on the side, and 50 feet in the rear. "The problem is that the property lines are virtually at the building on three sides," said Melone. The plans also include landscaping that will reduce the maximum impervious surface from the current 100 percent to the required 80 percent.

ABC completed a similar project at 401 Hazle Street, the property immediately behind the one at 420 E. Broad St. Melone said that the groups were inspired by the success that they had at that property and hope for the same success with this property. The two buildings will share the play area that was constructed for 401 Hazle St. and the management and maintenance teams will also be the same. Melone also said that there is currently a waiting list for the units at 401 Hazle St.

ABC is currently applying for funding for the project through the PA Housing Finance Agency, including historic tax credits, and possibly DCED grants. They hope to break ground by the end of the year and have the building ready for occupancy by 2011. Zoning board chairman Richard Clemson thanked the group for their interest and investment in Tamaqua.

At the beginning of the meeting Clemson and Clyde Robertshaw were also appointed as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Zoning Hearing Board, respectively.