PLATTSBURGH - Catherine Gardens is now a reality.
The Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County and Affordable Housing Limited marked the opening the affordable housing project on North Catherine Street with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Dec. 10.
The 31-unit development - consisting of one- and two-bedroom apartments - was built on the site of the former Mount Assumption Institute, previously owned by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, and sold to the SCCCC. The $8 million investment converted the long-vacant and partially-blighted block to a use that is expected to meet the needs of senior citizens and low-income families "while maintaining the character and history of the neighborhood."
Affordable Housing Unlimited owner George Hezel said the project took "vision of a particular sort" to make it possible, crediting Brothers of Christian Instruction, the SCCCC, elected officials and all others involved.
"Throughout this process of three or four years of developing this site, we listened carefully to the people and what they were saying they wanted for this site and I think we have sculpted a plan that makes great sense," said Hezel.
The development required forging partnerships and series of collaborations with many members of the community, said Hezel, and persistence over "many obstacles."
"The years 2008 and 2009 hit like a ton of bricks and we found ourselves hard-pressed to make the financing work out," Hezel said, referring to the national recession. "Nevertheless, with a great leap of faith, we moved forward."
Brother Raymond Fortin read a statement on behalf of Brother Jerome Lesard of Brothers of Christian Instruction, expressing their satisfaction with the transformation of the former Mount Assumption Institute.
"This fortress of a building has served generations of students in both classrooms and dormitories. And, now, another clientele will benefit from its inviting and welcoming open doors," stated Fortin. "We hope that a community of caring people will enjoy living on this block, offering support and watching for one another."
"Thanks to God - and his many assistants - the dream has become a reality," he added.
State Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, said she was glad to see the project come to a close, making her now able to store away the file for the project after years of attention and dedication to the development.
"The file I have on Catherine Gardens takes up a whole lot of space in my filing cabinet, partly because of the hundreds - literally hundreds - of support letters I received in the beginning [for the project]," said Duprey. "This is a great way to kick off the holiday season."
SCCCC executive director Maria Alexander, who took on the project for her predecessor, Kathleen Hazel, said the seed planted years ago for the project is finally reaping its rewards.
"Today, our seed begins to bear fruit," said Alexander. "This is a legacy that will benefit the community for decades to come."
For more information about Catherine Gardens, call Alexander at 563-6180.