Allentown Housing Authority Celebrates $15.1 Million Comprehensive Renovation Of Cumberland Gardens Homes
Allentown, Pa. – Representatives from the Allentown Housing Authority (AHA) were joined by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-15; Mayor Ed Pawlowski and state and federal housing officials Tuesday to mark the completion of major renovation and rehabilitation project at the Cumberland Gardens community in South Allentown.
The $15.1 million project included a comprehensive rehabilitation of the properties both inside and out, improved accessibility for residents and substantial changes to outdoor common areas to increase green space and make the community more pedestrian-friendly.
“The overall goal is to modernize Cumberland Gardens,” said AHA Executive Director Daniel R. Farrell said. “This community was built in the 1970s. It’s now 40 years old and we want to make it viable for another 40 years.”
Pennrose Properties Inc. of Philadelphia, which partnered with the housing authority on the successful reconstruction of Overlook Park in east Allentown, has again teamed up with AHA for the redevelopment of Cumberland Gardens.
The project won praise from Rep. Dent and Mayor Pawlowski, who both played key roles in obtaining the financing for the work.
“The renovation and rehabilitation project of Cumberland Gardens is critically important to strengthening and stabilizing Allentown’s East Side,” said Rep. Dent. “I commend all the partners involved, especially the Allentown Housing Authority and its continuing commitment to provide and maintain quality affordable housing for residents of lesser means.”
“The work that has been done here, like the complete reconstruction of Overlook Park, is critical to ensuring that our city continues to provide affordable housing in an environment that encourages residents to reach for a better life,” said Mayor Pawlowski. “In addition to these renovations, the housing authority is one of our strongest partners in making our neighborhoods safe by working with us on the surveillance cameras and providing additional police patrols to reduce crime.”
Unlike the makeover of Hanover Acres and Riverside Terrace into the new Overlook Park community mentioned by the mayor, the Cumberland Gardens project does not involve demolition of all existing apartments. A small number of buildings will be demolished and rebuilt, meeting federal accessibility guidelines for families with disabilities.
“Essentially it was a total gut-job,” Farrell said. “Everything was completely redone from the outside in and we now have apartments designed for accessibility and use by today’s families.”
The three-phase overall rehabilitation and renovation of the 200 apartments that began in 2010 with the reconstruction of the Cumberland Gardens Community Center and 14 apartments at the corner of Cumberland and Ellsworth streets.
As with those buildings, the number of bedrooms was reduced in many of the apartments to provide adequate size quarters for modern living needs. In addition, each unit received new doors and windows, structural improvements, replacement of floors, trim, fixtures and siding and interior wall repairs. The project also included substantial landscape changes aimed at increasing the green or grassy areas and making the community more pedestrian-friendly.
Applications for housing tax credits for the second phase of the reconstruction, which will involve 70 homes, will be submitted in November and Farrell said construction could begin by next fall. The remaining 56 homes will be included in the third and final phase of the project.
Renovations to the Community Building included the complete removal of interior walls and creating two spaces for Head Start classrooms, as well as the comprehensive renovation of authority office spaces, new public restrooms, new heating and air conditioning. Also, a small addition was created at the rear of the building to expand the maintenance space.
The project is being funded through a combination of Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, and financing from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), City of Allentown and AHA.
Pennrose Properties is working with Harkins Builders of Maryland on the renovations.