Class Notes & Profiles

The Story of One Success (Petero Sabune '77)

The need for affordable housing in northern New Jersey is daunting.

According to a 1990 report by the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing, the seven counties of northern New Jersey served by Episcopal Community Development, Inc., had a need of 65,000 units for low-and moderate-income families. Creating that housing in communities crippled by poverty, crime, and despair is a challenge at least as daunting as the need. There have, however, been some success stories.

The St. James Square Project in Newark, the Episcopal Community Development's largest housing undertaking to date, is one such noteworthy project. Still in development, but with some apartments already occupied, St. James Square has become the flagship of ECD-sponsored projects. When finished, it will offer the best that any neighborhood, new or old, can: a solid, lively sense of community values and life.

Named after the Episcopal Church that formerly served the community, St. James Square had, by 1990, degenerated into an area of almost total devastation. Home to drug dealers and prostitutes, the neighborhood was bereft of life's most basic amenities. The St. James Square Project was planned in two phases. Phase one, already completed, involved the creation of twenty-two, two- and three-bedroom, low-income apartments. Phase two will consist of the gut rehabilitation of several architecturally significant limestone buildings and the construction of other, new buildings on vacant, city owned land.

The work for phase one started in 1992, when ECD pulled together more than $2 million in needed funding. The loans were closed on in June 1992, construction, conducted under ECD oversight, began the following day, and by Christmas, the apartments were fully occupied.

Phase two has just begun (see accompanying article). ECD will again be providing assistance for all aspects of the project, including the renovation of the limestone buildings, the construction of new units, and the possible centralization of community services. As with all ECD projects, the future of St. James Square is tied to the stated desires of its residents. Through the creation of the St. James Square Community Development Corporation, a locally run group responsible for the continued operation and development of St. James Square, ECD has Ellen Britz Gerber is ensured the project's long-term viability and responsiveness to residents' needs.