Vacant Harrisburg schools to become senior housing - abc27 WHTM

Vacant Harrisburg schools to become senior housing

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It's not often your second grade classroom could become your upgraded home, but plans are underway to turn vacant schools in Harrisburg into low-cost housing for seniors.

From collecting dust to collecting cash, the Hamilton School on N. 6th Street may become the district's latest revenue source. Because of budget woes, the school was shut down in June 2011.

Hamilton is among five vacant schools in the district that include William Penn, Shimmel, Lincoln and Steele.

Gene Veno, the district's chief recovery officer, discussed plans Wednesday that would convert classrooms into 37 two-bedroom and studio apartments. The apartments would be in the heart of the revitalization district where a new federal courthouse is expected. The project plans state that "affordable senior housing" would be for people age 62 and older.

A joint effort between the district, city, Summa Development and Pennsylvania Development Corporation would tackle the project named Hamilton Apartments.

"It's a good project," Veno said. "This is a for-profit venue and it's a project that could bring in half a million dollars to our City of Harrisburg School District."

Original discussion would put several of the vacant schools under the tax-exempt Keystone Opportunity Zone program. Veno said this plan would obviously benefit the district directly.

"I've not said this publicly, but I will today. One of my real goals, true goals, between now and June of 2014 is to not see a cut for our employees and not see them go with a frozen salary in 2014," Veno said.

Veno's goal includeS generating enough revenue for the district by turning empty properties into money-making investments. Veno said a similar housing project is under consideration at Steele, and the often vandalized William Penn property has interest to turn the old high school into a medical facility.

"It's all for the children," Veno said. "And, more importantly, to keep our employees here in the district. We need them because without them there is no district."

Veno said he will discuss the plans Thursday evening before City Council, which must give its approval before the properties can be developed.


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