Developer seeks tax credits for Highland Hall

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Andrew Haines, executive vice president of S&A Homes in State College, said he has submitted for tax credits to help fund a $10 million-plus project to renovate Highland Hall.

The credits, worth $9 million, will fund the lion’s share of the project when they are sold off to investors. Another $1 million would come in the form of low-interest loan grants, with the last chunk being typical bank loans.

But there is a four-month waiting period to see whether the funding will come in, he said. If S&A can’t get the tax credits, “we don’t get the rest,” Haines said.

At a Feb. 7 Historical Architecture Review Board meeting, Haines announced plans to secure a site agreement with Highland Hall’s owner, RADD Development Co., and renovate the 146-year-old historic structure into senior-living apartments.

On Thursday, he told Borough Council that a deal had been reached with the owners. He told council he plans to turn Highland Hall into a 56-unit affordable housing development apartment complex of one- and two-bedroom units for seniors age 62 and older.

There will be an income ceiling of $40,000 a year, Haines told council, comparing it to Altoona’s Keith Hilltop Terrace and Charles E. Wolf Court complexes.

He said a market study showed 60 percent of Hollidaysburg seniors make less than that and would be eligible to live there.

Some rents will be as low as $250, he said, but most will be set around $600 to $700 per month.

Before the building can become livable, there is a lot of work to do.

“As many of you know, the building’s in pretty bad shape,” Haines told council. “The back wing facing Spruce Street is pretty much caved in for two floors.”

He plans to demolish the base of the T-shaped building its back wing and build a new addition, while shoring up the original front and side walls.

Another addition will be placed along the west side, on the left, where an addition that was not part of the original structure was torn down a few years ago.

Renovation will maintain the building’s cupola and mansard roof.

“The building footprint won’t change much,” Haines noted at the meeting, saying he will not build forward toward Walnut Street, just back toward Spruce and add a parking lot. The original Union Street parking lot will be upgraded.

Because the building is in such bad shape, Haines said he’s more or less looking at taking a bulldozer to the interior and starting from scratch.

“Not a lot of maintenance has been done in the past 40 years,” he said. “The only thing that’s really still viable is the walls.”

Haines answered questions from council members Tim Baranik and Tim Beresnyak, who wondered when construction would begin and whether it would be done in phases.

Haines said he could start as early as 2014 if funding comes through, and the project would be done all at once.

Borough Manager Mark Schroyer said borough officials are behind Haines, supporting the project and doing “a little bit of leg work” by putting together information for Haines to submit, as well as drafting a support letter for the project.

“And there will be more work to do in the future” if renovation moves forward, Schroyer said.

While the chance of receiving funding is one in three, Haines said Highland Hall has “all the bells and whistles” the state likes to see in a project: a community invested in the building’s future, borough government support, a historic district and downtown location as well as a building that won’t tax the sewer or water lines, since those have been provided already.

If funding doesn’t come through this time, RADD could extend the option and allow Haines to apply again.

Some projects go through two or three trials of tax-credit application before being accepted, Haines said.

RADD President Ralph J. Albarano Jr., who owns the property with business partner Don Devorris, said although selling Highland Hall to S&A Homes is not a done deal, he knows the company is experienced in the kind of work needed to restore it.

Albarano said he wouldn’t have made a site agreement option with just anyone, but he has long been familiar with Haines and S&A and trusts that if the money comes through the project will be done correctly.

His main concern, he said, was to “maintain Highland Hall with as much of the existing integrity of the building as possible,” and he hopes Haines can do what he couldn’t.