Highland Hall project put on hold for now

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A Highland Hall renovation project is being delayed.

State College-based S&A Homes Executive Vice President Andy Haines, who first announced plans to renovate the 147-year-old structure, said the company was turned down for tax credits that would have been used to fund much of a proposed $10 million renovation.

The credits, worth $9 million, would have been sold off to investors to pay for the construction, with the remaining $1 million or so made up with low-interest loan grants and bank loans.

Haines had originally told council in February that if S&A

couldn’t get the tax credits, “we don’t get the rest,” but said he’s still hopeful the project will receive funding.

“We submitted Highland Hall for a funding program at Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. It’s a very competitive program. … We did well, but we finished second versus first.”

Haines said 70 projects were submitted, and only 20 were chosen for funding.

“We’re looking at resubmitting again” next spring, he said.

S&A secured a site agreement in February with owner RADD Development Co., allowing the building company to look into funding to make Highland Hall a 56-unit affordable-housing apartment complex serving seniors aged 62 and older.

RADD had previously asked Borough Council permission in June 2012 to raze the building, which Haines said prompted him to act.

Haines said the next step is getting an extension on the site agreement.

In the meantime, other community groups are looking into other options, he said, to see if there are other plans that could work for the building, which once housed a girl’s school, Army radio school, a Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic Church school for young men and, most recently, county offices.

“While they’re not working to help us, they’re working to save the building, and we’re in communication with them,” Haines said. “If someone comes to us and says, ‘We have a way to save this building,’ we would step aside in a minute and let them do it.”

Borough Manager Mark Schroyer said the borough will support Haines and S&A as they continue to look into alternate funding.