Catholic Courier

Posted: December 13, 2010

Courier photo by Mike Crupi

During a Dec. 3 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Atwood Park Apartments in Gates, tenant Pat Clay thanks Providence Housing Development Corp. personnel for making her dream of safe and affordable housing possible.

Seniors applaud new affordable apartments

By Amy Kotlarz/Catholic Courier

GATES -- Fighting back tears, Pat Clay said she now gets a good night’s sleep every single night in her new home: Atwood Park Apartments.

Speaking during Dec. 3 a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new apartment building, Clay said that in her previous home in the city of Rochester, she had become fearful of violence, tired of urban noise, frustrated by upkeep and increasingly worried about falling down her home’s stairs.

"It was like being worried all the time," Clay said. "There was no peace of mind because I didn’t know what to expect or what was going to happen."

For the past month, Clay has lived in Atwood Park Apartments, which is tucked back into a quiet cul-de-sac. The apartment building features 33 one-bedroom, 600-square-foot apartments for low-income individuals 62 years and older. Rents are capped at half of the area median income, and several units are still available.

The complex was built and is managed by Providence Housing Development Corp., an affiliate of Diocesan Catholic Charities. With the addition of Atwood Park, Providence, a nonprofit corporation, has developed more than 738 units of affordable housing and manages 551 units of tax-credit housing.

Monica McCullough, Providence's executive director, said Atwood Park Apartments has been in the works since 2007. At that time, the agency had submitted an application to build the affordable senior housing complex St. Salome Apartments in Irondequoit. The project was approved for more money than was needed to build it, which McCullough noted was an unusual circumstance then and now.

In light of the leftover funding, Providence officials received permission to plan a second affordable-housing apartment building for seniors. The project was originally to be located in Irondequoit, but was later moved to Gates.

The project received $3.8 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program, a HUD Developmental Planning Grant of $262,743 and $400,000 from the Monroe County Home Investment Partnerships Program.

Ultimately, the project was completed about $200,000 under budget, McCullough said. It is Providence’s first and only completely nonsmoking property, and it also was designed with several energy efficiencies.

Wayne Willard, a HUD director of project management, commended the finished project, which he said provides quality housing within a tight budget.

"Our standard is decent, safe and sanitary housing, and this is well above that basic housing need," Willard said.

Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini noted that one in five Gates residents are 62 years or older, noting that there is a big need for affordable senior housing in the town.

"We are really celebrating a new beginning for the residents who are living here," said Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

After the ribbon cutting, Clay recounted how a friend living in St. Salome Apartments told her about the plans for the Atwood project. At the time Clay lived in a Rochester neighborhood near Sacred Heart Cathedral.

"I prayed to God, ‘If you help me move in here (Atwood Park), I will do whatever I can to help others,’" Clay said, noting that she remains an active volunteer and parishioner with the Cathedral Community.

She said she appreciates that heat and hot water are included in her rent. In her Rochester home, she couldn’t afford to set the heat above 60 degrees, so she used to wrap herself in blankets. She said she also feels safe now to have her 3-year-old great-granddaughter over to her apartment to play; she hesitated to do this at her previous home.

"They get in here (Atwood Park), and they are so beside themselves," noted the complex's property manager Rhonda D. Lawson, a Providence employee who also manages West Town Village senior housing in Henrietta. "They are so grateful. Pat and others told me this is the nicest place they have ever lived in their lives."

After the ribbon cutting, Lawson showed off the building's highlights, including its community room with kitchen, a sitting room with a library, a common laundry facility and an elevator to the second floor. Each unit has a patio or balcony. Lawson also showed off one of the units which had been specially designed for wheelchair accessibility. It features lower counter tops and lower rods in the closet, and a shower that allows a wheelchair to be driven into it.

"We just leased this to a gentleman who is a paraplegic," Lawson said. "He has been in a nursing home for 33 months. He hasn’t been able to have a proper shower in that time."

Lawson said several new residents of the building moved there from homeless shelters, which she noted frees up additional emergency beds for people in need.

Other residents gave the space glowing reviews as well. Irene Brockman, who works for Providence as a property manager at Shortsville Meadows, is one such satisfied resident of Atwood Park.

"I don’t plan on working all my life, so I decided to move in here," said Brockman, who noted that she treasures the peace and quiet, and the view of a wooded area that she has found at the building.

When new resident Ron Fitch moved in, he was leaving a housing situation in Charlotte that had become unsafe. In his new apartment, he has been able to put up a Christmas tree and decorate his walls with film reels that highlight his love for movies.

"I love it very much," Fitch said of his new home.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For details on Atwood Park Apartments, call Rhonda D. Lawson at 585-247-0985.

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