A set of landmark buildings has been transformed into affordable housing for seniors in Jersey City, N.J.

For decades upon decades, the buildings served as a school, convent, and rectory at St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church. Despite their long history and prominence in the community, the structures became vacant or underutilized in recent years. Church leaders recognized it was time for a change. With housing becoming increasing unaffordable in the city, they saw an opportunity to turn the buildings into seniors housing.

RCG Development Group and the Alpert Group made that possible, co-developing St. Bridget’s Senior Residence.

“We shared a similar mission,” says Christopher Garlin, managing general partner of RCG Development.

At the project’s recent ribbon-cutting ceremony, he talked about how the development was about more than bricks and mortar. Instead, it is the continuation of a broader story that began more than 130 years ago.

The rectory is the oldest of the three buildings, dating back to 1883. The school was built in 1890, and the convent followed in 1924. The site’s history of community service continues as affordable housing. All three buildings have been renovated and adapted into 46 apartments, including nine for frail elderly. Forty-one units are reserved for households with incomes no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), and five are set aside for those earning no more than 30 percent of the AMI.

Three nuns reside in a non-incoming producing unit in the original convent building.

Each building had its own challenges, but the renovation of the school may have been the most complex. The team carefully lowered the fourth floor ceiling to create enough room for a fifth floor of housing, says Garlin.

RCG Development and the Alpert Group also worked hard to retain the buildings’ historic features, including the brick work. When Superstorm Sandy knocked down a cupola, the team refabricated it to maintain the building’s look.

The $10.6 million project was financed with about $7.3 million raised through low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) and $1.8 million from federal historic tax credits syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment. TD Bank was the equity investor and construction lender. The housing credits were allocated to the project by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), which awards about $20 million in 9 percent LIHTCs each year. Jersey City also contributed roughly $1.5 million through its Affordable Housing Trust Fund and HOME funds.

HMFA estimates that the project has generated about $16.8 million in one-time economic output, 101 jobs, and $616,000 in state and local jobs during construction. Now that St. Bridget’s is completed, the development will continue to add value, providing about $1.9 million in ongoing economic output, 11 full-time jobs, and $106,000 in state and local taxes annually.

The project architect was LWDMR Architects, and the historic preservation specialist was Mary Delaney Krugman Associates.