Senior housing proposed for St. Mary’s

City Council members were presented Tuesday night with a plan for a four-story, 50-unit affordable senior housing development to replace the former St. Mary’s convent. Use of the church, gymnasium and school buildings at the complex on Central and Esterbrook avenues would not change.

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Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark initially needs approval from City Council, which would include a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), before even applying to the Planning Board. The project would be funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which looks for need and support for such projects. The Archdiocese has built five such projects through its Domus Corporation, a single-asset corporation that brings together government funds with parish properties, said Catholic Charities CEO Phillip Frese.
“The administration is more than convinced of the need for this,” said City Administrator Peter Pelissier.
Council members had some concerns about parking and the size of the new structure. The project would include 49 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit (for a superintendent on site). The existing building would be demolished and some parking spaces and the driveway to Esterbook Avenue would be realigned, said Steve Cohen, an architect for the Archdiocese.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jennifer Wenson-Maier disagreed that a new four-story building would fit into the neighborhood, and expressed concerns about parking and that three adjacent residences were not yet contacted by the Archdiocese. Some creative redesign of the layout, she suggested, could allow the building to be pulled to the right, “making everyone happy.”
The population of such a project typically is associated with the municipality in which it’s developed, said Don Lubin, a consultant for the Archdiocese. He estimated 50 to 60 percent of residents have some connection to the municipality. Applicants for the affordable housing must meet three requirements: they must be someone in the household; someone older than 62; and income requirements of less than about $30,000 annually. The typical applicant to such senior housing projects in New Jersey are single females about 75 years old, he said. Individual units are about 540 square feet.