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Officials Tout Newest Chester Development

Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Delaware County Daily Times

CHESTER — Movers and shakers from Harrisburg to Washington, D.C. gathered at the site of the former Chester Towers Tuesday afternoon, celebrating the new public housing development that is soon to replace the demolished buildings.

Even though construction is already well under way at the new Edgemont and Madison Senior Apartments, officials held a brief groundbreaking ceremony followed by a lengthy series of speeches and refreshments.

Gov. Ed Rendell hailed the project, which has employed about 300 construction workers, as a good example of federal stimulus dollars at work.

The new buildings are funded by a combination of funds from the federal Hope VI Public Housing Revitalization Program development initiative, grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and stimulus grants.

“But we wouldn’t have invested the money we have if the people of Chester didn’t believe in their city and that it can be great again,” said Rendell, to applause.

The old, 15-story, 1970s-era Chester Towers were a signature landmark of the city, but were also plagued by problems ranging from asbestos to drug trading.

The towers were demolished in March 2008, but efforts to replace them were delayed by upheavals in the financial markets.

Roizman Development Inc., based in Plymouth Meeting, finally was able to move forward with the project last March.

Rendell jokingly attributed the success to company President Israel Roizman’s passion and “incessant nagging.”

The new Edgemont Senior Apartments will contain 87 units for low-income seniors alongside Madison Senior Apartments with 38 units. Both will be four-story, mid-rise buildings and each will have a community room with a balcony overlooking Avenue of the States.

The development will also include a three-story office and retail building with new offices for the Chester Housing Authority and about 3,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Although the buildings are not slated to open until June, Roizman said all the apartments are already spoken for. Many are former Chester Towers tenants returning to the location, he said.

U.S. District Court Judge and Housing Authority Receiver Norma L. Shapiro said she wasn’t sure that the new buildings — the last of a five-phase project — would ever happen.

And although she celebrated the progress, she also pointed out the difficulties they’ve had in securing funding for a community arts building or a supermarket for Chester.

Quoting a famous protest song, she said, “Deep in my heart, I do believe we shall overcome someday, and I look forward to seeing you all at those groundbreakings.”

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