The superintendent of the construction work, Rich Jarvis, of Rich & Gardner Construction Co., Inc., expects construction to be completed by Jan. 14. The complex will be ready for occupancy in early 2017.

Walsh explained how the property has evolved.

For many years, the property housed a licensed adult home, where many people who were living in poverty had peer support. Often they were mentally challenged in a variety of ways, and they lived there as elderly people for the duration of their lives.

When that adult home was sold around 1999, Michael Pisa, Walsh’s director of residential services, said, “Let’s look at that property; let’s see what we can do with that.” So they decided to independently buy the property and use it for a supported housing project. “We just went for it,” Walsh said.

After her agency bought the property, she said, it was used for individuals who needed housing.

“Many people who had been homeless,” she said, “who … had been through one episode of attempted recovery after another — jails, recovery, rehabs, hospitals, that whole cycle — came here to live; and because they had a stable living environment, with a tolerant landlord, and some supports, lived here, many of them, till the end of their lives.”

 It was the relationship between Pisa and Joseph Slavik, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Syracuse, that led to the idea for the Riverview Project.

Slavik knew Pisa, and asked him to serve on the board of directors for Christopher Community.

Christopher Community President Douglas J. Reicher said the roots of his organization are in the Catholic faith, “and in that tradition, we serve people of all faiths and ethnicities.”

Reicher foresees the Riverview apartment complex as “a big place, a comfortable place, and a place that really respects the residents that are going to be here.”

Christopher Community and Catholic Charities are among the stars of the apartment project, said attorney Matthew V. Byrne, who helped with all the legal complexities. “Everybody wins with a project like this, because we are serving those in need,” Byrne said.

Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, who also attended the groundbreaking, agreed that Christopher Community has “a great track record of serving a need. Pope Francis, who’s captured the hearts of people the world over, is always interested … in providing housing. He doesn’t say it exactly that way, but, you know, welcoming the stranger, giving access to the refugee, encouraging government agencies and countries to reach out and to help people who are in need.

“In a small way that’s what we’re doing here in Cortland today. So I’m delighted to be with you in doing this.”

“The thing that I am most proud about with this project is the leadership role that the state of New York is taking,” attorney Byrne said.

Providing funding are New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state Office of Mental Health, the Community Preservation Corp., and Enterprise Community Investment Group.

Slavik said Riverview is a new idea that has come up through the state ranks regarding mixed housing: “trying to integrate special-needs people with local-community people. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for Catholic Charities and Christopher Community. It’s a great collaboration between the two agencies.

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