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Grand opening held at Phoenix Court in Atlas



HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMLocal, county and state officials listen to comments from Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority, at Friday's grand opening of Phoenix Court, a new housing complex in Atlas.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMLocal, county and state officials listen to comments from Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority, at Friday’s grand opening of Phoenix Court, a new housing complex in Atlas.

ATLAS — Cooperation between local, county and state government officials has transformed blighted and fire-ravaged properties in the 100 block of Girard Street into five beautiful, one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens known as Phoenix Court.

The small housing development held its grand opening Friday afternoon with remarks by local, county and state dignitaries whose individual, department and team efforts allowed the 700-square-foot property to “rise from its own ashes,” which the term phoenix denotes.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMThe scene of Friday's grand opening of Phoenix Court in Atlas.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMThe scene of Friday’s grand opening of Phoenix Court in Atlas.

Mount Carmel Township and Northumberland County Housing Authority officials worked closely together to acquire 11 properties and obtain funding to have them razed and construct the apartments.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held in June and construction was completed at the end of last month.

Four of the units are occupied by women 62 years of age or older who moved in May 1. The apartments feature a full kitchen, dining room/living room area, bathroom and bedroom. One unit remains vacant, but is expected to be filled in the near future.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMHaving a conversation at one of the new apartments at Phoenix Court, a new low-income housing complex in Atlas, during Friday's grand opening are, from left, Mike Carpenter, HOME program manager for the state Department of Community and Economic Developmen (DCED); Neil Weaver, executive deputy secretary of DCED; and Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMHaving a conversation at one of the new apartments at Phoenix Court, a new low-income housing complex in Atlas, during Friday’s grand opening are, from left, Mike Carpenter, HOME program manager for the state Department of Community and Economic Developmen (DCED); Neil Weaver, executive deputy secretary of DCED; and Edward Christiano, executive director of the Northumberland County Housing Authority.

Each unit has a front porch and easy access, and there is ample parking in the rear. Phoenix Court is well illuminated and contains beautiful landscaping.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMNeil Weaver, executive deputy secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, addresses the gathering at Friday’s grand opening of Phoenix Court, a new housing complex in Atlas.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMNeil Weaver, executive deputy secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, addresses the gathering at Friday’s grand opening of Phoenix Court, a new housing complex in Atlas.

The apartments are targeted for seniors with income at or below 50 percent of the median income for the county.

 The housing authority, which was the developer for the project, will manage the units.

One of the residents, Joy Berry, a Mount Carmel native who most recently lived in Kulpmont, loves her new digs. “I love it here,” she said. “It’s so convenient, safe and modern, and close to my friends. Everything is on one floor and I never had it so good.”

Berry extended her appreciation to everyone involved in providing her and other tenants with fantastic living arrangements.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMFrank Marcinek, vice chairman of the Northumberland County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, addresses the gathering at Friday's dedication of Phoenix Court, a new low-income housing complex, in Atlas.

HARRY DEITZ/FOR THE NEWS-ITEMFrank Marcinek, vice chairman of the Northumberland County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, addresses the gathering at Friday’s dedication of Phoenix Court, a new low-income housing complex, in Atlas.

Mount Carmel Township Supervisor Aaron Domanski, who celebrated his 36th birthday Thursday and grew up in Atlas, described Phoenix Court as a “remarkable and beautiful” project.

He thanked everyone, including all township officials, who contributed to the elimination of an eyesore and the construction of the housing units. He credited township secretary Marian Klingerman for coming up with the name Phoenix Court.

“It’s really amazing to see the transformation of this corner from literal ashes into the great property sitting here today,” he said. “I really appreciate all the support and help in bringing this to our township.”

Northumberland County Housing Authority Executive Director Edward P. Christiano, who spearheaded the project and served as master of ceremonies at the 30-minute grand opening ceremonies, stated,“I want to extend our sincerest thanks to the entire team of our community partners that brought this project to fruition, including state Sen John Gordner, state Rep. Kurt Masser, the state Department of Community and Economic (DCED), Northumberland County commissioners, Mount Carmel Township supervisors, and Northumberland County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.”

Frank Marcinek, vice chairman of the Northumberland County Authority Board of Commissioners and longtime highly successful basketball coach at Susquehanna University, said Phoenix Court is a prime example of local, state and county officials working together for the best interests of everyone.

Neil Weaver, executive deputy secretary for DCED, said his agency is responsible for growing the economy and creating new jobs, while also improving living conditions in communities throughout the state.

He said DCED has provided approximately $2 million in funding in the Mount Carmel area in recent years.

He particularly praised Gordner for supporting DCED’s efforts, the county housing authority and everyone else who helped make Phoenix Court a reality.

Gordner said he’s always had a great relationship with DCED and thanked the agency for supporting the housing project. He commended Masser for being one of three state legislators who are leading experts in blight. He also praised the efforts of Christiano and others for making Northumberland County a leading example throughout the state in its ongoing fight against blight.

The senator pointed out Thursday’s announcement that the county housing authority was awarded a $200,000 grant through DCED to assist with its blight elimination program.

“It’s a great day for Mount Carmel Township, and Atlas in particular,” Masser said. “A great investment has been made in this community that definitely deserves it. This is a case of all sides of government coming together to better a community.”

Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano said it was important to have a strong coalition working together to improve communities like Atlas. He said projects like Phoenix Court hopefully will spin off into other ventures that help keep people living in the coal region.

Other officials in attendance included Mount Carmel Township Supervisor Matt Sosnoskie, Northumberland County Grants Manager Kathy Jeremiah, Northumberland County Housing Authority Deputy Director Pat Mack, DCED Deputy Secretary for Community Affairs and Development Rick Vilello and DCED HOME Program Manager Michael Carpenter.

The project was funded with $603,000 in DCED HOME funds, $100,000 from the Northumberland County Commissioners Act 137 Trust Fund, $45,000 from the county’s Community Development Block Grant Program, $72,500 from the Federal Home Loan Bank in Pittsburgh, and $55,000 from a Northumberland County Behavioral Health/Intellectual & Development Services Reinvestment Grant.

The general and plumbing contractor for the project was Bognet Inc., of Hazleton. Mid-State Commercial Contractors, LLC, of Mifflinburg, was the mechanical contractor. Paige Electrical Services, LLC, of Port Trevorton, was the electrical contractor.