$1.1M in tax credits OK’d for housing in former Fecera’s warehouse

The former Fecera’s Furniture warehouse at Beech and Evans streets. KEVIN HOFFMAN — MERCURY FILE PHOTO
The former Fecera’s Furniture warehouse at Beech and Evans streets. KEVIN HOFFMAN — MERCURY FILE PHOTO

By Evan Brandt, The Mercury

Sometimes the third time is a charm.

The state housing tax credits worth more than $1.16 million of the financing needed to convert the former Fecera’s furniture warehouse on Beech Street into apartments were awarded Thursday.

Called Beech Street Factory — the 60,000-square-foot building was once the Leibowitz Shirt Factory — the project will rehabilitate the four-story brick building into 43 high-quality apartments that would be marketed to artists.

It will also be the new home of ArtFusion 19464, moving the non-profit art center from High Street to the center of the First Ward.

The project is the result of a partnership between Genesis Housing Inc., the non-profit agency which has rehabilitated dozens of homes in Pottstown and sold them to first-time homebuyers, and Syracuse. N.Y.-based Housing Visions, also a non-profit housing agency.

“We are extremely proud of Beech Street Factory,” Kenyon Craig, president and CEO for Housing Visions, said in a press release issued Friday.

“This funding will help Pottstown meet its critical housing needs, revitalize a struggling neighborhood and expand economic opportunity for all,” he said.

In its 25-year history, Housing Visions has built 1,000 affordable housing units in 300 buildings in 11 different cities in New York. This is its first project in Pennsylvania.

“Genesis Housing is looking forward to working with Housing Visions to redevelop this long-term vacant property to high quality residential units and space for ArtFusion,” said Judy Member, executive director of Genesis.

“This will be a transformative project in the revitalization of Pottstown,” she said.

Put together with a number of funding sources, including $1.3 million from Montgomery County, the organizers said the tax credit was crucial to closing the funding gap to make the numbers work for the project.

The credit will be applied over 10 years for a total of $11.6 million in Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency funding for the project.

This is the third and last time the partners sought the tax credits from the PHFA.

Last year the project was turned down for the funding from the second time.

But this year’s application had two things the second did not.

In April, 2014, borough council granted the project a conditional use permit and, in January, agreed for the first time with a 6-2 vote to also provide an official letter of support for the $13.6 million project.

(Also for the first time, the project also had an official letter for support from The Mercury.)

The tax credit, worth $1,159,146, is one of 39 announced Thursday worth a total of $36,924,511.

“Low-income housing credits work because they leverage investment from the private sector,” Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release issued Thursday.

All total, the tax credits announced Thursday will leverage $361 million in private investment to help create 1,864 affordable rental housing units.

Constructed in 1912 as the Leibowitz Shirt Factory, the 100-plus year old brick building at 341 Beech St., at the corner with Evans Street, will feature Energy Star appliances.

Residents of the one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments (ranging in size from 800 to 1,500 square feet) will enjoy amenities such as a community room/gallery space, computer lab, covered bike racks, landscaped courtyard and open front porch, on-site laundry facility, individual storage lockers, elevator, and a fully staffed property management and leasing office.

Also approved Thursday was $1,042,501 in tax credits for a project called The Whitehall off Route 724 in East Vincent, between New Street and Park Road, just outside Spring City.

That project is being undertaken by Mission First Housing Development Corp.