Belleville

Rebirth: Cottages at Cathedral Square opens

Cottages at Cathedral Square in Belleville

The Cottages at Cathedral Square are complete near downtown Belleville.
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The Cottages at Cathedral Square are complete near downtown Belleville.

A once blighted area near the iconic St. Peter Cathedral in downtown Belleville has been transformed into a modern senior living community.

Already 10 tenants have moved into the Cottages at Cathedral Square, with room for more. The $6 million 31,000-square-foot senior living complex has 16 one- and 16 two-bedroom apartment units, providing senior citizens independent living that includes a community center and on-site medical assistance.

The 32 units are available to low-income residents age 62 or older who meet U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

The development sits in a city block bordered by South First Street, West Harrison Street, South Second Street and West Garfield Street.

The one-story and two-story homes mimic the German-style row houses that still stand along the adjacent neighborhood. Although the new development is named for its neighbor, St. Peter Cathedral, the Rev. John Myler, pastor, said the Cottages at Cathedral Square is not owned or operated by the church.

“It started out as a dream of the Cathedral and the people,” Myler said, adding he is pleased with the property’s conversion.

“So rather than just tearing stuff down, the dream began for an affordable community for senior living,” he said. “And several years later, that’s what we’ve got.”

There were a lot of hurdles and a lot of politics we had to go through and a lot of convincing to let the people know why this was such a great project. This is not a Section 8 project. This property complements the natural community. That was the message we wanted to get out. We had to prove that and we did.

Rich Gonzalez, president, Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. in Chicago

The church initially reached out to St. Patrick’s Center in St. Louis for guidance. The nonprofit “social enterprise” group provided input about how they had redeveloped other properties that had been part of Catholic parishes, schools and neighborhoods into senior housing.

The St. Louis Equity Fund invested in the tax credits. Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville and the Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., a not-for-profit corporation chartered to develop, own, and manage low and moderate income housing, developed the property.

Five years ago, the block was only home to many derelict houses, an abandoned tavern and a vacant pants factory. The new senior living center’s central interior parking lot and nearby gazebo was the site where former Belleville Police Office Jon Brough was shot in the face during a police standoff on Nov. 10, 2006. The gunman, Larry Sicka, committed suicide soon after the shooting, leaving Brough blind and ultimately ending his career in law enforcement.

Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. President Rich Gonzalez said the project was envisioned about six years ago and required much negotiating to accomplish.

“There were a lot of hurdles and a lot of politics we had to go through and a lot of convincing to let the people know why this was such a great project,” Gonzalez said. “This is not a Section 8 project. This property complements the natural community. That was the message we wanted to get out. We had to prove that and we did.”

$6 millionCost to build Cottages at Cathedral Square

31,000living space in square footage

32 units available for independent senior living

This development is the first of its kind in the city and also the first building in town to receive certification from ICC 700 National Green Building Standard for the “green” practices that were incorporated into the buildings’ design and construction.

Cottages at Cathedral Square taps into energy- and water-efficient appliances with low flow faucets, toilets and shower heads. The cabinets and carpets inside were made with low volatile organic compounds.

Mark Hinrichs, whose Fairview Heights-based construction company, Impact Strategies, built the residential complex, said his company has seen significant interest in this type of residential development as more Baby Boomers age and seek independent living without the burdens of maintaining a home.

“We have seen the cottage-style population growing that trend,” Hinrichs said. “I think that we’ve built a number of cottage that have maybe two-unit (homes) or five to six units in a building. Those are for independent living with all of the services provided to be completely user friendly for the renter.”

I’m happy that the Cathedral is in the shadow of this place and this place is in the shadow of the Cathedral.

The Rev. John Myler, pastor, St. Peter’s Cathedral in Belleville

Myler said he is pleased that Belleville’s Cathedral could help provide the land and bring the urban renewal project to fruition.

“I’m happy that the Cathedral is in the shadow of this place and this place is in the shadow of the Cathedral,” he said.

“What came down had been derelict. What has come up is brand new.”

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