Ocean City Housing Project “Looking Great”

Ocean City Housing Project “Looking Great”

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The project overlooks West Avenue at Sixth Street.

By DONALD WITTKOWSKI

Ocean City Housing Authority’s nearly $7 million affordable housing project for senior citizens is rolling along on time and on budget with about five more months to go before its scheduled completion, the agency’s board members said Tuesday.

“Tracking it closely, it’s looking great,” Scott Halliday, who chairs the authority’s redevelopment committee, said while giving an update on the construction schedule during the monthly board meeting.

Called Speitel Commons, the 32-unit project is being built next to the authority’s Bayview Manor housing complex at Sixth Street and West Avenue. The building is named in honor of the late Edmond C. Speitel Sr., a housing authority commissioner who helped to oversee the $6.9 million project from the conceptual phase.

“This was really his vision and his dream, so it’s important to recognize that,” City Council President Bob Barr, who also serves as the authority’s chairman, said of Speitel.

Senior citizens who now live in the authority’s flood-prone Pecks Beach Village housing complex on Fourth Street will be moved over to the Speitel Commons building when it is completed.

The construction schedule calls for Speitel Commons to be finished by May 1, 2021. Construction documents show that the project is nearly halfway done at this point.

Authority members noted that the building is moving along at such speed that dramatic changes are visible virtually every day.

Halliday called the contractor, Gary F. Gardner Inc. of Medford, N.J., a “class act” who has done a laudable job building the project.

“It’s a well-run job,” Halliday told the board members.

Up to this point, construction has mainly been focusing on the exterior of the building, but now the work has also shifted inside for the plumbing, fire safety and heating, air-condition and ventilation systems. The contractor has just finished installing all of the windows, Halliday said.

“They are progressing nicely in the interior,” he said.

An architectural rendering depicts what the housing authority’s Speitel Commons complex will look like when completed spring 2021. (Rendering courtesy of Haley Donovan architectural firm)

The housing authority’s staff, board members and consultants have been working closely with the contractor to keep the project moving along on time and on budget. Barr said it was a “tremendous job” by the entire team.

Barr also praised Halliday and fellow housing authority board member Brian Broadley for using their “immense knowledge” of the construction industry to help oversee the project. In their full-time professions, Halliday is a home builder and general contractor, while Broadley owns a plumbing, heating and air-conditioning business.

“Without you guys, I don’t think it would be going as smoothly as it has,” Barr told both men during the meeting, which was held remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, City Council approved a $6.6 million bond ordinance to build or rehabilitate affordable housing sites for senior citizens and low-income families. The projects will help Ocean City meet its state-mandated obligation to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing as part of a court settlement in 2018.

The city is expected to contribute more than $2 million toward the Speitel Commons project. The New Jersey Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency is providing $4.5 million in funding.

The senior citizens portion of Pecks Beach Village, located on the north side of Fourth Street, will be torn down when Speitel Commons is finished. The housing authority has set aside $200,000 for demolition work on the flood-prone site.

Pecks Beach Village also includes affordable housing for low-income families. The 40 family units are located on the south side of Fourth Street. The family units will stay for the time being, although there are longer-range plans to replace them with new housing construction.

At the same time Speitel Commons is being built, the authority is also renovating Bayview Manor, another affordable housing complex for senior citizens. A new roof, windows and heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system will be part of the Bayview Manor project.

Meanwhile, in other business during Tuesday’s board meeting, Barr was re-elected as the authority’s chairman and Halliday was re-elected as vice chairman. Jacqueline Jones, who is the authority’s executive director, also serves as the board’s secretary-treasurer.

The windows are now installed on the building, allowing construction crews to begin working on the interior.