Mix federal tax credits with some bricks, and ... senior housing comes to downtown Belleville

News-DemocratJuly 25, 2013 

— New senior housing to be built adjacent to St. Peter's Cathedral has been approved for federal tax credits that will help get construction started next year.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority Board will allocate tax credits that are expected to generate an estimated $5.7 million for The Cottages at Cathedral Square in downtown Belleville. The new senior housing development will consist of 32 one- and two-bedroom units. The approximately 1,000-square-foot "cottages" will be built within the block bordering South First Street, West Harrison Street, South Second Street and West Garfield Street.

Illinois Housing Development Authority spokeswoman Rebecca Boykin said the project will cost an estimated $8.2 million and is one of nine housing redevelopments recently approved for federal tax credits across the state.

Along with the site in Belleville, Sinai Village II in East St. Louis is the other metro-east housing development to be approved for federal tax credits. The Mount Sinai Development Corp. in the Winstanley neighborhood is handling this project. Additional details about this development were not available.

"Federal tax credits are an excellent tool for financing affordable housing opportunities for people of Illinois," Boykin said.

Federal tax credits finance more than 100,000 apartments nationwide each year. The state housing authority allocates federal tax credits to sell to investors and then generate private equity for this type of housing development. This helps reduce the debt that the developer would otherwise have to borrow. As a result of the lower debt, a tax credit property can offer lower rent to low income tenants.

The Rev. John Myler, pastor of the Cathedral, said he is grateful to the Illinois Housing Development Authority, local lawmakers Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville; Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea; St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, the Belleville City Council, consultants and project partners Southern Illinois Health Foundation and Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. for bringing the downtown redevelopment closer to reality.

"The dream has been to offer seniors a new, quality, affordable and safe place to live ... a residential community here in downtown Belleville and an attractive part of the Cathedral neighborhood," Myler said.

The church initially announced the project in October 2009. Existing homes and a vacant tavern were razed in September 2011. Myler said the former pants factory building on South First Street that abuts the McCormick Center, the Cathedral grade school's gymnasium, has remained vacant for the past four decades and is set to be demolished later this year.

"The demolition of the old, derelict pants factory will soon be a very visible sign of what's coming, a beautiful new community of affordable housing for seniors, beneficial to the Cottage residents, to their neighbors and to our city," he said.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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