Coronavirus Concerns Delay Groundbreaking for Housing Project

first_imgBy DONALD WITTKOWSKIA groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for April 4 to celebrate the start of construction on a nearly $7 million affordable housing project for senior citizens in Ocean City has been postponed indefinitely amid the coronavirus outbreak.City Councilman Bob Barr, who also serves as chairman of the Ocean City Housing Authority, said the event was expected to draw a large crowd, so it has been called off for the time being.“Since this was going to be a large event, I didn’t feel comfortable holding it,” said Barr, noting that he consulted with Mayor Jay Gillian’s office first.In a series of sweeping coronavirus-related cancellations and restrictions announced Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy imposed a ban on any gatherings of 50 people or more to try to slow the spread of the illness.Government bodies have followed up on the governor’s orders by canceling their meetings, closing public buildings and limiting public access to their offices.The Ocean City Housing Authority canceled its monthly board meeting on Tuesday and is exploring options for its April meeting, including the possibility of holding it remotely, Barr said.In the meantime, the authority’s staff will remain on the job to continue overseeing Ocean City’s Pecks Beach Village and Bayview Manor public housing complexes for senior citizens and families, Barr said.Senior citizens who now live in the authority’s flood-prone Pecks Beach Village on Fourth Street will be moved over to a new 32-unit housing project when it is completed. Barr estimated the project will take 12 to 18 months to finish, with a grand opening sometime in 2021.A $6.9 million construction contract has been awarded. The project will be built on what is now a parking lot adjacent to the Bayview Manor complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue.Pecks Beach Village, located on a section of Fourth Street prone to flooding, is slated to be demolished after the new Speitel Commons housing complex is built.The groundbreaking ceremony, whenever it is held, will cap years of planning for the project. The new building will be named Speitel Commons in memory of the late Edmond C. Speitel Sr., a housing authority commissioner. Speitel, who was chairman of the authority’s finance and redevelopment committees, helped to oversee the new project from the conceptual phase.Approval of $4.5 million in funding for Speitel Commons from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has set the stage for construction to begin. In 2019, City Council approved a $6.6 million bond ordinance to build or rehabilitate affordable housing sites for senior citizens and low-income families. The projects will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing as part of a court settlement in 2018.One of those projects is the Speitel Commons complex. The city is expected to contribute more than $2 million toward the project.The housing authority will demolish the senior citizens portion of Pecks Beach Village, located on the north side of Fourth Street, after the Speitel Commons project is completed. Pecks Beach Village also includes affordable housing for low-income families. The 40 family units are located on the south side of Fourth Street. The family units will stay for the time being, although there are longer-range plans to replace them with new housing construction. An architectural rendering depicts what the housing authority’s Speitel Commons complex will look like when completed. (Rendering courtesy of Haley Donovan architectural firm)last_img

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