Whether he’s cutting the ribbon at a grand opening celebration or hosting a township council meeting, Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo rarely strays from his signature suit-and-tie style. When you’ve been an elected official since 1994, maintaining a polished appearance just comes with the territory.
But on Monday, Aug. 5, DiGirolamo traded in his signature duds for something a bit more relaxed – sweatpants, a baseball cap and white sneakers – in order to comfortably man a larger-than-life yellow bulldozer.
All smiles, DiGirolamo officially broke ground on Mechanicsville Road, directly off of Street Road, where affordable housing exclusively for veterans will soon be built. The mayor expects construction on the project to begin within the next month, and to have residents move in by the end of 2020.
“We’re thrilled about that,” he said. “I’ve worked on that for 12 years for the veterans. Twelve years, and it’s finally coming to fruition where we got the money and put it all together.”
The new 39,673-square-foot development, which is referred to as the “Bensalem Veterans Residences,” is set to feature 40 one-bedroom units. Amenities will include a community room with an exterior patio, lounges and laundry rooms on each floor and a fully-equipped fitness room.
Additionally, there will be a community service office with a conference space, where local veteran organizations can meet.
According to DiGirolamo, the Bensalem Veterans Residences was made possible, after so many years, because of the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks. Created in 1962 and headquartered at 216 Pond St., Bristol, the Redevelopment Authority regularly assists local municipalities, businesses, private developers and homeowners in, as its mission states, “the rehabilitation of blighted and deteriorated properties and reuse of abandoned or underutilized industrial, commercial and residential sites.”
The Redevelopment Authority was able to acquire the land in order to facilitate the reuse of the property, including demolishing the vacant structures that once stood on the site. For the project, the Redevelopment Authority partnered with private developer Pennrose, LLC, which shared the same mission as DiGirolamo and the Bensalem Township Council – to provide high quality, affordable housing for veterans.
“This project shows the effectiveness of public-private partnerships and demonstrates what can happen when all levels of government work together,” said Sean Schafer, Redevelopment Authority chairman. “We look forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting.”
Jeff Darwak, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority, who was on hand during the groundbreaking celebration, shared Schafer’s sentiment.
“The Redevelopment Authority is grateful to play an active role in this project that will benefit veterans in Bucks County. We thank Mayor DiGirolamo for inviting the Authority to assist with the redevelopment of this property. The project would not be possible without the clear vision and steadfast commitment of the mayor and Bensalem Township Council over the many years it took to get to this point,” Darwak said. “It’s also important to recognize the efforts of long-time former executive director of the Redevelopment Authority, Bob White, who early on forged the relationships and partnerships necessary to bring this project to fruition.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org