"Developing affordable housing in these significant historic buildings gives the Borough a 'double shot' - we're creating modern, efficient homes for area residents at prices they can afford and at the same time restoring a piece of the Borough's rich history," said Micah Gursky, Executive Director of Tamaqua Area Community Partnership, during the well-attended dedication of the new Liberty Hall Housing Complex in Tamaqua yesterday.
Six years and $7 million later, two historic properties, located adjacent to each other, at 401 Hazle St. and now at 420 East Broad St. in Tamaqua are completed and occupied. In all, 26 one, two and three bedroom apartments and townhouses are located in the development, which includes equipped-kitchens and baths, community space and both indoor and outdoor parking for residents.
The 401 Hazle St. property, called Hazle Street Complex, consists of 14 apartments, while the new 420 East Broad St. property, called Liberty Hall Complex, is comprised of 12 apartments.
Alliance for Building Communities Inc. (ABC) of Allentown, together with Tamaqua Area Community Partnership (TACP), served as project developers; with ABC owning and managing the properties. Funding has included a myriad of public and private sources; such as the PA Housing Finance Agency, Peoples Neighborhood Bank, the National Equity Fund, the PA Department of Community and Economic Development, the Federal Home Loan (FHL) Bank of Pittsburgh and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
"We are competing against larger communities, added Gursky. He continued by addressing some of the attending tenants, saying, "We are glad you chose to live in Tamaqua."
Both properties are located in a national "Historic District" that includes over 900 properties and are both adjacent to Tamaqua's "Main Street" and "Elm Street" districts. Representing one of only 14 in Pennsylvania, the Borough of Tamaqua is also a FHL Bank Blueprint Community.
"It takes people, money and a plan," said Senator Dave Argall, who used to live in the east end of Tamaqua. "Blight is contagious, so is revitalization."
Representative Jerry Knowles said, "This project was a great thing for the entire region."
Both properties have played a role in the development of the community. The Hazle Street property housed multiple companies, such as Tamaqua Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Company, Eureka Signal Factory, B & S Dairy and Tamaqua Frocks. The East Broad Street property also housed multiple properties, such as an entertainment complex, Sprite Manufacturing, lumber yard of Aiken's Building Supplies, car museum for John Morgan's antique automobiles, fitness center and archery range. Prior to their substantial rehabilitation, both buildings were vacant and deteriorating.
"These apartments are beautiful and resemble nice New York Loft apartments," said TACP member Maureen Donovan.
Two-year tenant of the Hazle Street Complex, Gary White, said, "Management is really nice. They take care of the grounds and help with disabled and elderly individuals."
Gerald "Gerry" F. Alfano, President and CEO, ABC Inc, said, "We are always looking for future expansion opportunities This project raised the total number of ABC's housing units to over 400 units in five counties.
Also present during the dedication were Pat Freeh-Stefanek, manager of all three ABC facilities (Liberty Hall, Hazle Street Apartments and ABC Hi-Rise); Tony Fannock, maintenance manager; Joe Medl, Chairman, Board of Directors, ABC Inc.; Sherry Heidelmark, PA Housing Finance Agency; David Buches, FHL Bank; Tom Cara, Tamaqua Borough Council; and others.
Graysha Harris, Development Coordinator, ABC Inc., stated her appreciation to all who were involved. She added, "Ralph J. Melone, AIA created the design for the development and Panzitta Enterprises of Wilkes-Barre, General Contractor, transformed the architectural plans into reality."
Linda Yulanavage, Executive Director, Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce, said, "This project is a great thing for Tamaqua and creates a need for this to continue."
"Today, the exterior of Liberty Hall has been beautifully restored similar to what it looked like around World War One," said Dale Freudenberger, President of the Tamaqua Historical Society. "Liberty Hall is once again alive and a vibrant part of the Tamaqua community."