Kramer + Marks Architects

A nearly century-old school has been adapted into 55 affordable homes for seniors and homeless veterans in Philadelphia.

Originally named after Civil War Gen. John F. Reynolds, the school closed in 2013 and sold to the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). Nonprofit affordable housing developer HELP USA then took on the ambitious rehabilitation of the Art Deco building.

Now called The Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown Veterans Center at HELP Philadelphia VI in honor of the first Black female brigadier general in the U.S. Army, the development features 51 one- and four two-bedroom units designated for low-income seniors, veterans, and people with special needs earning between 20% and 50% of the area median income. Nine units are set aside for formerly homeless or special-needs veterans.

“Residents have shared how dignified the apartments feel and how proud they are that they have what is essentially the nicest apartment in the neighborhood,” says David Cleghorn, president of HELP Development Corp. “They have a quality place to live.”

Kramer + Marks Architects

The building embraces universal design principles to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities and allow residents to age in place. For example, units have room for wheelchairs to turn in kitchens and bathrooms.

Architectural features, including transom windows and millwork in the apartments, were maintained. In some cases, classroom blackboards were integrated into units, and the school stage is part of the community room.

Public Health Management Corp. is providing on-site medical services and general support to all services, particularly homeless services.

The $21 million project, which utilized both low-income housing and historic tax credits, is part of a Sharswood neighborhood revitalization effort led by the PHA.