A few weeks ago my wife came home after volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry enthusiastic about something she’d heard. A lady had come for her monthly box of food. “She was bubbling with excitement,” my wife said, “most people who come to the food pantry are not bubbly at all. They are usually pretty beaten down by the circumstances that force them to have to ask for help. But not this lady.” “I am moving into the most beautiful apartment I have ever seen. It is brand new and has a kitchen, bedroom, living room and has all new furniture,” she said. “It’s just in town on Elm Street and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such a wonderful place to live.” This experience was so unusual that my wife couldn’t wait to tell me about it. She was bubbling with excitement too. “Did you have anything to do with this new place?” I felt just a moment of pride as I told her about the Union Square apartments that almost weren’t built.
The project had many hurdles to leap and some of the hurdles had to be leapt more than once. The project needed approval from City Council twice. Thank you Amy Odum. The investors needed assurance over and over again that the project was actually viable. Thank you Arthur Krauer. And local agencies had to be kept abreast of what was happening and asked for their support. Thank you Dan Faraglia. Even a few weeks before ground was broken all three of these folks had to provide assurance and reassurance that the project was a go.
I was at the grand opening last Friday and the place was full of people from State Representative Robert Cupp to the cousin of the doctor who donated the land, all hoping to get a peek at what the inside of this building looked like. As I walked in through the front glass doors I was struck by how the whole place seemed to glisten. “This is like walking into a five star hotel,” someone said, “it even smells new.” The spacious lobby flows into a large common room furnished with comfortable chairs and a number of tables to sit at. Down the hall is another common room that could be used to meet family or for support groups. There are 24 units on three floors. We all had a chance to look into a room at one the end of the ground floor. I walked into a very nicely decorated kitchen with plenty of cabinets and counter space and brand new appliances. Thst ajoined a living room with a large picture window that looks out onto a soon-to-be landscaped garden right along the river. The apartment has a separate bedroom and large bathroom.
One of the residents is a former Vet who can’t believe his luck in landing such a beautiful place.The project was conceived by Coleman Professional Services and Testa Corporation as a way to use IRS tax credits to leverage funding to build housing for Vets and anyone in the community that might be experiencing a physical, intellectual, or mental disability. The details are way too complicated for me but suffice it to say, the Union Square apartments were completely built with someone else’s money. Yay!
The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board is providing the funding to hire staff who will be on site 24 / 7 who make sure the apartments are well kept and that the residents are safe. Even the people being hired to oversee the property have experienced what it's like to go through difficult times themselves.
I am excited that the staff and the residents are all getting a second chance at happiness. And Lima is getting a beautiful building in what was once a pretty rough patch of land. We can all be proud of this development right here in our area.
A big thanks to Nelson Burns, CEO of Coleman and Joe Testa CEO of Testa Corporation for their vision and willingness to invest in Lima.