On May 31, church leaders and public officials took part in a ground-breaking ceremony for the Hobart Housing Project, an eight-unit development to be located at 180-186 Hobart Avenue in Bayonne. The Hobart Project will provide affordable housing units for people with developmental disabilities, and other units for low-to-moderate income people, with a preference for special needs households not referred by the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities. Until recently, that location was the site of a former warehouse that housed social services sponsored by the Windmill Alliance, a non-profit organization that is associated with Trinity Episcopal Parish in Bergen Point. The Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSEDC) will be the lead developer of the new building.
Hobart, Inc., which is owned by the Windmill Alliance, will own and operate the site. The project was made possible with funding from the Hudson County Division of Housing and Community Development in the amount of $1,381,182 through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Program, $1,000,000 from the Bayonne Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and a loan from New Jersey Community Capital in the amount of $314,037.
Speaking at the ceremony, Rev. Gregory Perez, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Windmill Alliance, said that the time leading up to the ground-breaking was “a very long process.” Rev. Perez cited a five-year timeline that involved planning and accumulating the necessary funds for construction.
Giving a blessing at the ground-breaking event, Bishop Mark M. Beckwith of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark said that the Hobart Project resulted from “a wonderful partnership” of government agencies and church-related organizations. Bishop Beckwith said he “celebrated the vision” that led to the start of construction.
John Restrepo, Director of Housing and Community Development for the Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation, cited the rising housing costs in New Jersey relative to wages as an important reason to construct affordable housing. He also mentioned the “need to take care of the less fortunate” as a motivation for the Hobart Housing Project.
Mayor Jimmy Davis said that Matthew Guerra, Vice President of the Windmill Alliance, visited him on his third day as mayor to ask for the City of Bayonne’s financial backing for the project. As a result of that meeting, the project received $1 million from the City of Bayonne’s Affordable Housing Trust, to which various developers have contributed. Mayor Davis said that the City of Bayonne has not forgotten about affordable housing. He said that new senior housing and other affordable housing initiatives would be announced shortly.
First Ward Council Member Tom Cotter said that successful people who have worked hard “shouldn’t forget where we came from.” He expressed satisfaction about the new location on 5th Street for the social services that used to be offered at the Hobart Avenue site.
Annmarie C. Uebbing, Director of the Community Planning and Development Division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, described the application for housing funding as “a difficult process.” She thanked and congratulated all of the groups involved in the Hobart Project.
Randi Moore, Division Chief of the Hudson County Division of Housing and Community Development, said she was “thrilled to see this partnership,” and said that housing is “a priority” for County Executive Tom DeGise.
Sheri Fine, Director of the Office of Housing and Resource Development in the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities, thanked the Windmill Alliance and Garden State Episcopal Community Development for setting aside housing for developmentally disabled people. She said that the new building would help meet the needs for affordable and accessible housing.
Windmill Alliance Vice President Matthew Guerra said that the Hobart Housing Project would improve the surrounding neighborhood. He said that the previous building on the site had become “an eyesore.” Mr. Guerra thanked Thomas Coughlin, President of BCB Community Bank, for helping to resolve some of the financial issues involved with the property.
The DAL Design Group of Bayonne is the architect for the Hobart Housing Project. Callico Construction will build the housing units, under the sponsorship of the Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation.