Local and state dignitaries were on hand Wednesday during a ground-breaking ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new 12-unit apartment complex at 420 East Broad St. in Tamaqua.

The Tamaqua Area Community Partnership (TACP), a local nonprofit community organization, facilitated the development of the large, abandoned, building in 2009 with the intent of holding it for ABC (Alliance for Building Communities) Inc. of Allentown. ABC Inc. purchased the property and recently began construction.

The 18,000-square foot structure is an existing brick building located adjacent to Tamaqua's central business district. It is situated next to another former manufacturing building that was recently rehabilitated into 14 affordable apartments and town homes, 401 Hazle Associates LP Apartments, by ABC. This project is ABC's second phase to its 401 Hazle St. project.

Some officials on-hand during the ground breaking were Sen. David Argall; Rep. Jerry Knowles; Gerald Alfano, president and CEO, ABC Inc.; Joseph Medl, chairman of the board of directors, ABC; Joe Shupp, treasurer, ABC Inc.; Alan Dakey, president and CEO, Peoples Neighborhood Bank; Michael Corso, vice president and director of business development, ACBS Group, LLC; John Panzitta, owner, Panzitta Enterprises, Inc.; Holly Glauser, director of development, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA); William Joseph, community investment consultant, FHL Bank; Joe Yarzebinski, senior program director, Rural LISC, Micah Gursky, treasurer, Tamaqua Area Community Partnership; Linda Yulanavage, executive director, Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce; Pat Freeh-Stefanek, building manager, ABC Inc.

Since it was constructed in the 1920s, Liberty Hall, once known as a recreation facility and social hall, was used primarily as a manufacturing facility during its lifetime. In addition to being a cardinal location for Sprite Manufacturing, it also served as locations for Singer, Akins Supply, Wink Liberty Pontiac, Morgan's facility and an archery range.

In addition to these projects, ABC Inc. and its consultants, Melone Architects and GKH Consulting Company, have worked together on five other successful affordable housing developments. The adaptive reuse of 420 East Broad St. will result in 12 general occupancy apartments consisting of two one-bedroom flats, four two-bedroom townhomes and six three-bedroom town homes, two of which are handicapped accessible. A fully enclosed parking garage will also be provided beneath the homes. Each of the townhomes will have individual access. This will bring the total number of units at both sites, including 410 Hazle St, to 26.

"This project is bringing new life into the neighborhood, as well as providing quality affordable homes," said Argall, who said he used to walk by the building everyday back and forth to school. "Blight can be contagious, and so can community revitalization like this."

Knowles mentioned that the building was rat-infested and probably had to be tore down, but now it is being turned into affordable housing for local families.

"This project involved many years of hard work," said Gursky. He also thanked the people who made the project happen, stressing Tamaqua as a great investment.

Medl gave the keyword of "support," pointing out all the technical and financial factors and people that came together for the project.

Glauser stressed the benefits of tax credits that were provided; while Joseph said Tamaqua is a shining star in the Blueprint Community program.

Similar to 401 Hazle St., 420 East Broad St. will keep its brick exterior, be reinsulated and utilize high efficiency electrical heat pumps that feature water-saving devices.

The general contractor for the project is Panzitta Construction Company of Wilkes-Barre. Total development cost for the 420 East Broad St. project is $3.8 million, including approximately $3 million in equity investment from Peoples Neighborhood Bank, $647,312 in PennHOMES funds from the PA Housing Finance Agency, $72,000 in AHP funds from the FHL Bank, Pittsburgh, and the remainder in General Partner equity.

LISC, Local Initiative Support Corporation, which is one of the largest community support organizations in the country, provided $500,000 in Bridge Loan financing for the development. The project received $2.3 million in federal housing tax credits, as well as $481,000 in historic preservation credits.

Tamaqua, which is one of the 22 FHLB Blueprint Communities, is also a Rural LISC Sustainable, DCED Elm and Main Street and SBA HUBZone (historical underutilized business zone) community. Local officials pointed out that the reuse of 420 East Broad St. within the historic district is a key component of Tamaqua's strategic Sustainable Communities Plan. Following the ground breaking, officials and guests were treated to a tour of both projects and a brunch by Stefanek.

Alfano, of ABC Inc., said that these adjacent projects will tie the whole block together. He also expressed his appreciation to the project's financial, community and organizational support, adding that work is expected to be complete in about a year.