COATESVILLE, PA. - Not many health clinics come with apartments on top. For that matter, not many health clinics come with primary- care providers, mental health specialists, and dentists in the same building, either.
But that’s what Brandywine Health Foundation provided in this formerly thriving Rust Belt town that lost thousands of jobs over the past few decades as the local steel mill, its largest employer, shrank 90 percent in the face of global competition.
“It’s the first major development in the city of Coatesville in over three decades,” said Frances Sheehan, Brandywine Health Foundation’s president and CEO.
More than 300 seniors were on the county’s waiting list for affordable housing when The Brandywine Center began construction in 2007. Now the city has 24 new one-bedroom apartments for income-qualified seniors, as well as crucial health services for the entire town’s low-income population.
“The reality of most low-income households is that they piece together different kinds of care because they often go from job to job with some employers providing insurance, others not,” said The Brandywine Center in its Readers’ Choice application. Worse, they “often defer medical care until they have a health crisis, relying on more costly emergency room care.”
The Brandywine Center was conceived to address Coatesville’s need for affordable health care. It was only later, after a real estate consultant hired to shepherd the project pointed out that the developers might be able to access some county housing funding, that the decision to add apartments was made.
A new nonprofit, the Coatesville Health Development Corp. (CHDC), was created to allow the project sponsor to secure a $3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) low-interest loan for the first and fourth floors of the building, which house the commercial portion of the mixed-use development. However, because the CHDC leased the two floors it built instead of owning them outright, it took some persuasion to get the USDA to agree the structure could fit under its rules requiring financing to go to a nonprofit owner.
The project also won an allocation of low-income housing tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency for the residential portion of the project. PNC MultiFamily Capital, Inc., was the equity investor, injecting $3.8 million. Chester County contributed a $1.8 million loan, and the state pitched in an $800,000 grant.
Residents of The Brandywine Center, which is expected to be fully leased by the end of the summer, have access to a community room, a laundry, a computer room, and an exterior balcony. The first floor holds 14 exam rooms, a lab, and physicians’ and dentists’ offices, while the fourth floor houses two behavioral health agencies and a conference room.
“Our hope is that it benefits all the people in that community who otherwise would not be able to successfully access health care for financial reasons,” said Sheehan.