The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

June 16, 2013

City now boasts ‘1st-class’ homes

By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer

FARRELL — There’s a new “choice” location to live on the Farrell hillside, and by all accounts it’s a positive turn for the city that’s weathered its share of tough times.

The 34-unit complex at Roemer Boulevard and Spearman Avenue is being developed by CHOICE Inc., a Youngstown-based nonprofit led by Phil Smith.

“It’s going to be a great place to live,” Smith said.

Smith isn’t a stranger to the Shenango Valley, where he once led the local Urban League.

The $9.6 million housing development has been spearheaded by Smith at the behest of Farrell Mayor Olive McKeithan.

The mayor was merely a council member when she first lobbied for the project about 10 years ago. Since then, the city and developers have crawled through bureaucratic hoops to put together the funding for the project, which uses a public-private mix of funds.

The end result is a showpiece for Farrell, everyone agrees.

City Manager Michael Ceci said he hopes to use the project as a springboard for more development in Farrell.

“I know it’s nice,” McKeithan said. “I think it looks marvelous.”

A recent walk-through of the just-about finished complex confirms her description of it as being a “first-class” building with “nothing skimpy” about it.

The 34 units are comfortably apportioned and there’s a large community room that can be used by residents.

Thirty-two cameras provide indoor and outdoor security, Smith said, and each unit includes a separate storage space, he said.

“Tenants should be living in the complex by July 1,” he said. “It’s been a long process. (But) it’s been a good process.”

It’s been worth it, McKeithan said.

“I am really happy, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to Farrell,” she said.

The apartments are just one part of the project, which also includes 10 homes scattered on the Farrell hillside. Smith and Ceci are also working to put together a second phase of the project, both said.

CHOICE partnered with for-profit developers NRP Group of Cleveland to build the complex and homes.

It was funded with $980,000 in tax credits that were sold to come up with most of the $9.6 million price tag; the remainder is being paid for with a $1.15 million state grant.