It seems only yesterday that Bensalem Township Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo got behind the wheel of a massive yellow bulldozer (while donning some not-so-signature sweatpants and white sneakers) to break ground on Mechanicsville Road, right off of Street Road, where affordable housing exclusively for veterans was slated to be built.
This was on Aug. 5, 2019, and now, the property is ready to welcome its first tenants on Dec. 1.
“We’re thrilled about that,” said DiGirolamo. “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.”
On a recent episode of The Mayor’s Show, DiGirolamo welcomed special guest Ray Bates, Bensalem Veterans Advisory Board chairman, who discussed the Bensalem Veterans Residences in more detail.
Located directly behind the Giant Food Stores, the 39,673-square-foot complex encompasses 40 apartments available for lease.
“There’s 40 high-quality, 1-bedroom apartments. There’s a resident lounge in there, an outdoor patio. They’ll have laundry facilities on each floor. It comes with a fitness room. Community service offices will be there to help the veterans,” said Bates. “It’s a rental community, and we’re looking for veterans that are over the age of 62.”
Bates added that the residences are walkable to and from SEPTA stops. There’s also on-site parking as well as conference room space to conduct VA benefits interviews and other important meetings.
According to Bates, many may be able to reside at the new complex for either no cost or a low rental fee.
“It’s income based,” he said. “So, if you’re a disabled vet receiving a disability check, and you’re receiving Social Security, you pretty much will live here at these facilities for free. If you do have another income involved where you’re going to go over a threshold, they have a percentage, you’ll pay a little more than $350 a month.”
After so many years of trying to get this project off the ground, DiGirolamo said it was finally made possible thanks to the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks, which was able to acquire the land in order to facilitate the reuse of the property. This included demolishing vacant structures that once stood on the site. The Redevelopment Authority partnered with private developer Pennrose, LLC.
“The Redevelopment Authority is grateful to play an active role in this project that will benefit veterans in Bucks County,” said Jeff Darwak, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority. “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 recognized longtime former executive director of the Redevelopment Authority Bob White, who he said “early on forged the relationships and partnerships necessary to bring this project to fruition.”
“This project shows the effectiveness of public-private partnerships and demonstrates what can happen when all levels of government work together,” added Sean Schafer, Redevelopment Authority chairman.
DiGirolamo and Bates stressed that a handful of spaces are still open at Bensalem Veterans Residences, and urged qualified veterans to pre-apply before Thanksgiving if they’re interested. Residents will be approved by the end of the month, and the keys will be handed over on Dec. 1.
“If you’re not sure you’re eligible, apply anyway,” said DiGirolamo. “We’re coming down to the last few weeks that we can do this. We know you’re out there. It’s a great opportunity. We’ve done this for our Bensalem veterans. This is what we built this home for.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org