Saturday, August 14, 1999

Renovated seminary will provide housing for elderly

The Cincinnati Enquirer

[st. francis]
The St. Francis Seminary will provide 79 units when completed.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        Construction starts later this month on a low-income apartment building for senior citizens, and demand is already 21/2 times the supply of apartments.

        Project officials say a lack of affordable housing in Cincinnati as well as the lush project site — the historic St. Francis Seminary building in Springfield Township — have fueled interest.

        “It will be a beautiful spot,” said Marcella Rittmeier, 79, who hopes to live there.

        She lives on a fixed income in Colerain Township and must find an affordable apartment if she wants to move out of her trailer home.

        “I couldn't pay five and six hundred” for an apartment, she said. “I just couldn't manage that.”

        One-bedroom apartments in the three-story seminary will cost about $350 with utilities included. The 1924 building made from tan-colored brick and stone will house 73 apartments, five of which will have two-bedrooms and will rent for $435.

        Four apartments will have roll-in showers, low cabinets and other adaptations for residents who use wheelchairs. All units will be wheelchair accessible.

[st. francis]
Angela Kaiser, program director at St. Francis Seminary, sits in the chapel's balcony.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        The $6 million renovation will be subsidized through a federal tax credit program that requires an application process for prospective residents. Applications will be distributed 90 days before renovations are complete.

        Sharon Thornton, executive director of Mercy Franciscan at Winton Woods, which owns the seminary and surrounding property, said the building's new use fits with the mission of the friars who first inhabited St. Francis: to serve the elderly and the poor.

        The seminary renovation is the first project in a 600-unit retirement community planned for about 100 acres surrounding the seminary. The complex, which will include homes, cottages, a nursing home, and assisted-living and Alzheimer's disease centers, should be finished within a decade, Ms. Thornton said.

        The seminary building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and renovations will preserve its outside appearance. Original liturgical murals and a white-washed chapel inside also will be preserved, said Angela Kaiser, project director.

        The building was used as a seminary until 1980, when the last class of young men graduated. Corporations, religious organizations and other groups used it as a retreat center until 1997.

        Today, no one lives in the building with rows of paned windows that reveal a garden view and five white ducks floating on a pond. Soccer leagues rent the surrounding fields for games, and people still rent the nearby gym. Money from these rentals helps pay for the seminary renovations.

        Although parking lots will be expanded to handle more cars before the entire 600-unit senior community is finished, Miss Kaiser said gardens and the pond will be preserved.


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