Diocese, partners break ground for Cortland housing

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Riverview Project on April 27 in Cortland. “Today’s a day of groundbreaking,” the bishop said, “but we’re really looking forward to the day when good folks are going to be able to move in here.” At left is the master of ceremonies, Douglas J. Reicher, president of Christopher Community, Inc. SUN PHOTOS | CHUCK WAINWRIGHT

By Tom Maguire

Associate editor

While excavation equipment hummed in the background, Marie Walsh bubbled over the groundbreaking for an apartment complex in Cortland.

   “Wow, this is a big day for us, a very big day for us,” Walsh, executive director of Catholic Charities of Cortland County, said on April 27 at the Riverview Project. “There were moments we wondered if we would ever get here. But we have.”

   The 39-unit apartment complex will house a diverse population of people with low to middle incomes. Representatives of the property’s owners — Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., Inc., d/b/a Catholic Charities of Cortland County; and  Christopher Community, Inc. — were among dozens of members of the action team who were celebrating.

   “We knew there was a need. … This is a fun project,” said Fredrick Zolna, vice president of development for Christopher Community, a not-for-profit development and management company.

   As Walsh spoke inside a tent set up next to the excavation, a cold west wind pushed against the plastic wall behind her. This was no tent revival; it was more like a town revival. The mood was warm and exultant.

   A huge Caterpillar track machine gouged out a long trench that will serve as footing for the complex’s new walls. The machine swept away the dirt like a horizontal arm brushing the crumbs off a tabletop. The packed dirt and concrete particles from an old fishpond had no chance against the relentless power of the mechanical arm.

   As powerful in their own way as the giant Caterpillar, the thinkers, funders, and planners could be thought of as the Riverview Regiment: They were dogged in bringing the $7.35 million project to this little side street, right next to Exit 11 on Interstate 81.

   According to a release from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office: The 17,306-square-foot building will have a total of 39 affordable apartments with 20 one-bedroom apartments designated for people with serious mental illness. Catholic Charities of Cortland County will provide wrap-around mental-health services to these residents.

   Services can include case management, housing supports, peer supports, linkage to health home providers, and 24/7 emergency support. The remaining 19 affordable units will provide a housing option for low-income families. Residents will have off-street parking and beautiful community spaces, according to the governor’s office.

   Applications for residency are available at Catholic Charities of Cortland County, or by mailing or downloading from the Christopher Community website, www.christopher-community.org.

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