Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Affordable senior housing proposed for historic African American block of Harrisburg

Proposed site of of Bethel Village at Herr and N. 6th streets.

A new affordable housing initiative soon may be coming to Harrisburg.

At a community meeting on Monday night, developers shared plans for an affordable housing development for seniors at the corner of N. 6th and Herr streets.

The almost $15 million “Bethel Village” would constitute the largest phase of the “Jackson Square” project aimed at restoring dilapidated buildings with ties to African American history on N. 6th Street, said Ryan Sanders, co-owner of Harrisburg-based RB Development, the main developer involved in the project.

“I’m really excited about the next level of development here,” said Sanders, during a community meeting at nearby Good Brotha’s Book Cafe.

Along with RB Development, Paladin Development, a branch of the Harrisburg Housing Authority, Gardner Capital Development and Bethel AME Church are partners in the project.

The proposed four-story, nearly 45,000-square-foot building would be available for low-income seniors 62 years of age and older. It would provide one- and two-bedroom rental units ranging in price from $300 to $1,000 per month. Generally, residents would pay about 30% of their income on rent, explained Ava Goldman of Gardner Capital, which specializes in providing affordable senior living. They plan to have designated units for visually and hearing impaired residents, as well.

A rendering of the proposed Bethel Village complex.

Previously, Sanders had proposed a market-rate, mixed-used residential and commercial complex for the site.

According to Goldman, there would be four onsite parking spaces for the Bethel Village complex. They are hoping that on-street parking will supplement the small number of onsite spaces and also don’t expect many of their residents to have cars, she said.

The proposed site of the project sits on the land where the historic Bethel AME Church used to stand before burning down in 1995. The lot currently contains paved parking and grassy areas. Adjacent to the property is the lot where the historic Jackson Hotel building once was, before partially collapsing and being demolished in January this year.

Bethel Village developers are under contract with both Bethel AME, which owns about one-third of the proposed ¾-acre building site, and owners of the connected lots.

Sanders hopes that, through the Bethel Village project, among others in the proposed Jackson Square area along N. 6th Street, the block’s African American history will be restored.

According to Sanders, much of the funding has already been secured through sources such as the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Harrisburg Housing Authority and the Bethel AME Church, among others.

At the meeting, resident Ted Hanson, who lives near the proposed building site, expressed his concern with parking, saying that what they planned will not be enough.

“I think parking is a real problem,” he said. “At least it is going to be for people like me who live in that neighborhood.”

Goldman said that, because they face financial constraints with providing affordable housing, they could not afford to create more parking spots.

Another Harrisburg resident, Eileen Norman, wasn’t concerned with the parking situation, but voiced her support for the project.

“I’m more concerned about our residents having a roof over their head that is safe and that they can live in,” she said.

Developers are currently working with the Harrisburg Architectural Review Board (HARB) to make sure the design of the building fits with other properties on the block. Next, they would need to take their plans to the city Zoning Hearing Board and then to City Council.

If all goes smoothly, Goldman said they hope to break ground by October of this year.

“We believe this affordable 49-unit option is going to bring a lot to the community,” Sanders said.

The proposed site of the Bethel Village is located at 1010 N. 6th St. For more information, visit RB Development’s website.

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