CAMDEN, NJ— Federal, state and local officials celebrated the groundbreaking of 72 affordable rental apartments in Camden’s Centerville neighborhood Friday afternoon.
The groundbreaking was the start of the second phase of the redevelopment of the Clement T. Branch Village public housing complex. The project’s first phase — a $16 million 50-unit, three-story building — was completed in January.
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. Now, Camden and Centerville is that butterfly, because they received their wings with the redevelopment that’s going on in the area,” said Dhamita Holmes, president of the Branch Village Residents Association, at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
The Branches at Centerville, when completed, will include nine new three-story buildings housing one- to three-bedroom apartments for residents earning up to 60 percent of area median income. Five units will be set aside for homeless individuals.
Phase two of the four phase project will cost $21 million and include 72 new units, with one-bedroom units for $824 per month, two-bedroom units for $994 per month and three-bedroom units for $1,234 per month. All 72 units will receive rental subsidies under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s [HUD] Rental Assistance Demonstration [RAD] project-based vouchers program.
“We put our public housing against any public housing in the country, second to none,” Mayor Frank Moran said. “Our m.o. is simple, it's to provide our residents of the City of Camden with the best possible quality housing that we can."
The project was financed by $2.6 million from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, which also awarded low-income housing tax credits which are expected to generate $15.5 million in private equity. Additional financing includes $1.5 million from HUD's CHOICE Neighborhood grant program, $13.4 million construction loan from TD Bank and a $4.1 million commercial mortgage from Berkadia Commercial Mortgage.
The project is being developed by the Housing Authority of the City of Camden [HACC] and Michaels Development.
"This is the second time that we've been back hear to see the branches, and how blessed we are to be able to participate in these activities that make it better for the residents," said Deborah Person-Polk, chairwoman of the HACC. "I do not want a unit built that I wouldn't live in myself, or that I wouldn't put my parents in."
Cythia Muse was one of the first residents to move into one of the new 50 units opened over the winter. Muse, who has lived in Branch Village for six years, said she makes sure to keep her third floor clean and puts knick knacks out for people to enjoy.
"I am so happy," Muse said. "We're so glad to be here and so happy for everybody that helped us."