Construction on $15 million affordable-housing project in Lancaster city is pulling closer to the starting bell.
- The developer, a Lancaster-based real estate investment fund called OZFund Inc., has landed a low-interest $1.8 million loan to help cover the costs of stormwater remediation and a “green roof” for the project, which is slated for 800 S. Queen St. in Lancaster.
- The loan, at a rate of 1.75%, came from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, known as PennVest.
- OZFund’s next step is to secure bank lending for the $15 million project, said Jeremy Feakins, a British-born entrepreneur who is founder and CEO of the fund.
- Once that is in hand, the company can begin demolishing two existing buildings on the site and prepare it for new construction,
- “We’re very eager to get started,” Feakins said.
On what: A 52-unit apartment building with units priced at levels affordable to people making 80% or less of the area median income.
- “We want to make these as affordable as possible,” Feakins said, noting there is a shortage of affordable housing in Lancaster.
- Affordable is typically defined as costing no more than 30% of income.
- The project also will include a roughly 7,000 square-foot grocery/convenience store with a focus on Pennsylvania-made and healthy items, said Feakins, who expects construction to last 12 to 18 months.
- The original plan called for 72 apartments and more commercial space but it was scaled back to accommodate neighbors’ concerns about traffic, Feakins said.
- The site was formerly home to a store called Rebmans, a name being revived for the new building.
- The “green roof” — essentially a rooftop garden for the use of residents — will help absorb rainwater.
- Other work funded by PennVest includes installation of underground filtration basins and pipes.
- The goal is to limit runoff going into the Conestoga River and reduce stormwater flowing into Lancaster’s combined sewer system, which handles both sewage and stormwater.
Why South Queen Street: It’s in a federally designated Opportunity Zone, one of thousands of areas nationwide so designated under a Trump-era tax law.
- Investors in Opportunity Zones can defer or reduce taxes on capital gains for a set period of time. But they generally must invest through qualified funds, of which OZFund is one.
- So far, OZFund has raised $1.6 million from investors for the Rebmans project, said Feakins, who has kicked in another $500,000.
- The project also was awarded $1 million from the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP. Feakins said he is seeking additional public funding.
- Once the Lancaster project is underway, OZFund plans to invest in other Opportunity Zones, Feakins said.
- In addition to his role at OZFund, Feakins is chairman and CEO of Lancaster-based Ocean Thermal Energy Corp., which is developing technology to produce renewable energy and clean water.