CAPE MAY - The ribbon cutting at Cape May’s Victorian Towers May 17 attracted dignitaries from the Camden Diocese, county and city government, and a contingent of residents.
The building, erected in 1973, is owned and operated by Diocesan Housing Services Corporation (HSC), a non-profit organization established to further the mission of the Diocese of Camden.
It is a 205 unit, six-story complex situated close to shopping and transportation services in the heart of the resort’s historic district. According to James Reynolds, executive director, HSC, the building houses 245 low- to moderate-income seniors.
Former mayor Edward Mahaney explained that the complex, which is restricted to individuals who meet both age and income criteria, was conceived as part of the mid-1960’s urban renewal effort that funded the redevelopment of that area of the city, including the creation of the Washington Street Mall.
Putting the affordable housing project into the plans was part of the effort to ensure federal government financial support.
The multi-million-dollar capital improvement effort tackled issues as varied as new windows and a new façade for the entire complex, renovated community space, energy efficiencies and the creation of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible units.
The financing of the effort made use of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 236 program redevelopment funds, as well as a bond program funded in part through the sale of low-income housing tax credits. Conditions of the financing mean the complex will continue to be operated as affordable housing.
Speakers at the event included the Most Rev. Dennis Sullivan, bishop of the Diocese of Camden, Freeholder Director Gerald Thornton, Mayor Clarence Lear, and Maria Maio-Messano, N.J. field office director for HUD, along with a number of executives from companies involved in the project design, execution and funding.
One of those dignitaries was Peter J. O’Connor, board chair of Diocesan Housing Services Corporation of the Diocese of Camden. O’Conner was described by Reynolds as the “godfather of affordable housing in New Jersey,” due in part to his role as one of the attorneys in the original Mt. Laurel litigation that gave rise to the state Supreme Court assertion that state municipalities have a constitutional obligation to provide their fair share of affordable housing.
Victorian Towers stands as a reminder of a time when Cape May was choosing a new future as a Victorian resort. No shortage of conflict accompanied that choice, as not all agreed on the city’s future direction.
Yet renewal was necessary, a new cabinet-level federal agency, part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society vision was in place to assist with urban development and packaged in the plan was Victorian Towers.
All who spoke agreed that the facelift and the interior renovations together assured that Victorian Towers would remain a part of Cape May’s year-round community for another 20 years.
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