Monday, January 01, 2001

Senior housing project set to go

Work begins on renovation planned since '80s

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Pilgrim Baptist Church bought the old Notre Dame building in the early 1980s to convert the structure into housing for seniors.

        But a lack of leadership for the project left it on the back burner. Now, construction is expected to begin in January.

        “This is a dream postponed,” said the Rev. Norman Townsel. “It's been a long time bringing the dream to fruition. We had a lot of disappointment along the way, a lot of discouragement along the way. To get this done is really an act of faith on the part of some strong people in the church.”

        The Rev. Mr. Townsel said the idea to develop housing for the elderly arose when members of the church noticed a shortage of affordable housing for seniors in Hamilton.

        “It's part of our ministry. It's just an extension of the gospel,” the Rev. Mr. Townsel said.

        Once the renovation is complete by January 2002, the building will feature 62 units, available for fees based on a sliding scale. The project will cost about $4.5 million, and the historic character of the building will be maintained. “Unlike a lot of buildings that get diverted like this, the Notre Dame building is in very, very good condition,” said Hamilton Planning Director Jim Boerke.

        Notre Dame, a former all-girls high school, closed in the mid-1960s. Nuns continued to live in the building for several years and community programs were operated there until about the '80s.

        “It's fair to say that it's been underutilized for the last 30 years,” Mr. Boerke said.

        Fred Schwab architectural firm in Columbus is the project developer. The five-story, 53,000-square-foot building has a third-floor chapel, which will be retained. The building, which was built in three phases - in 1887, 1893 and 1902 — will be made handicap accessible.

        Mr. Boerke said the city has agreed to use a $300,000 U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant and $3 million in state funding to help the project.


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