Rededication ceremony in Cape May

Bishop Dennis Sullivan celebrates the rededication of the Victorian Towers, one of the properties owned and operated by the Camden Diocesan Housing Services Corporation, which provides affordable housing to seniors and those with disabilities. —– Photo by Mary McCusker

CAPE MAY — On May 17, Bishop Dennis Sullivan led a rededication ceremony of the Victorian Towers, a 205-unit affordable housing development for senior citizens here in Cape May.

The ceremony marked the end of a year-long, $12.5 million renovation project, but it also marked a new beginning for the senior citizens living at one of the oldest properties in the portfolio of the Diocesan Housing Services Corporation (DHSC).

Bright, cheerful, updated and homey, the refurbished structure now boasts newly installed flooring paint and finishes in lobby, mailroom, hallways and the community rooms; new windows throughout the entire building; a fully-modernized fire alarm system; an updated façade to better reflect Cape May’s Victorian architecture; new landscaping, with a hardscaped patio and fountain; and a host of energy-efficiency improvements, including LED lighting and a rooftop solar array.

Jamie Reynolds, executive director of the DHSC, launched the ceremony in front of the stately white and forest green colored building, beginning with a quote from Mother Teresa’s 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “Love begins at home.”

It is in the spirit of love and service, he explained, that DHSC was established with the mission of providing quality affordable housing for low and moderate income households, especially senior citizens and those with disabilities in the six southern counties of southern New Jersey.

That need is great in Cape May, where about 39 percent of the population are over the age of 60, and 5.5 percent of whom are considered to be living in poverty.

Starting with words from a saint, ‘Love begins at home’

Bishop Dennis Sullivan greets the residents of Victorian Towers in Cape May after celebrating the property’s rededication ceremony on May 17. Below, the exterior of the Towers. —– Photos by Mary McCusker

As Bishop Sullivan noted in his remarks to the Victorian Towers residents, dignitaries, and diocesan staff gathered for the event, “The shortage of affordable housing in the United States is desperate. I am very proud that the diocese, long before I came here, has been involved in affordable housing. And we will continue to do that with love, but we need support to continue to do so” as the region’s population ages.

DHSC redeveloped the property in collaboration with Hudson Valley Property Group and MDG Design + Construction, both out of New York. Financing was provided by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, together with Citibank, Raymond James, TD Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. The 204 residential apartments at the property will remain affordable through a 20-year, project-based Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Reynolds noted the importance of ensuring that each of the Diocesan housing properties feels like home to the residents, “It’s not enough just to provide shelter, we need to create a residential environment where seniors can live comfortably with access to the services and activities they need to enjoy highest quality of life possible.”

One of the residents of the Victorian Towers, Jack Seubert, took the floor and offered his first-hand testimony of the quality of life that he and his wife experience.

“My wife and I are proud and lucky to live here,” he said to the audience, also pointing to the location as a major perk: just two blocks from the beach, fire department, police station, church, and the downtown area.  “[With the new renovations], we feel safe, and life is satisfying and enjoyable. They keep us busy involved in the activities that are held here,” he said enthusiastically, as many residents nodded in agreement. “It truly feels like home.”

The celebration concluded with a blessing from Bishop Sullivan and a round of applause. Residents and dignitaries closed out the event sitting side-by-side to share a meal together in one of the newly renovated community rooms.

Remarked Reynolds, “You can really feel the love and fellowship in this room. It’s what ‘home’ is all about.”