Simpson Gardens 2 was built in response to community requests to provide affordable housing for senior residents of Lansdowne, PA. The town has many large Victorian homes that older residents could no longer maintain nor afford, but they didn’t want to leave their hometown. Meanwhile Simpson – a Methodist senior living provider, and The Garden Church – the local Methodist Church, had that same mission and vision to serve older adults. The Bishop brought the Town, the Church, and Simpson together to address the housing need on church land next to The Garden Church. The group gained political and county financial support and obtained the necessary Zoning variances. Through a competitive low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) award, they realized Simpson Gardens 1 in 2004; a 41-unit apartment building with office space for the Church and on-site parking. Twelve years later Simpson was looking for land to provide more affordable housing. At that time the Garden Church could no longer support their failing 1950’s stone church building and adjacent education building. They wanted to take care of their parishioners more than their building. Once again, the Bishop brought the two entities together to create Simpson Gardens 2. The church building was razed to make way for the new apartment building. The community came together to help The Garden Church raise funds to build a worship space within the apartment building as the LIHTC funds could not be used for this use.
Although the project was well supported by the Community and politically, it took 5 LIHTC applications over the next 5 years to obtain the 9% credits.The Historic Society agreed to duplicate the same design aesthetic as Simpson Gardens 1 which incorporated architectural elements from the neighboring Victorian homes, such as trim style, colors, large windows, balconies, porches, and building materials. The two buildings form a cohesive element along the main road and look more like duplex homes than an apartment building. All parties recognized the importance of the aesthetic to the community, so it was preserved through the pricing and construction process. Ground floor common spaces welcome the residents and are shared with the Church. The greater community now uses the spaces for various meetings and events. Residents are thrilled with the amenities in their apartments and building. The Garden Church preserved many elements from the original church which were then selectively used in the new worship space such as the alter stone, the wood cross, light fixtures, stained glass, mahogany paneling, and building cornerstones. The project was constructed and then occupied through the Pandemic. The 41 apartments were rented in record time with a lengthy waitlist. The Church added a large video screen to have online services. In attendance – virtually – were existing worshippers with residents slowly joining in. Once the Church could hold services in person, the room was filled, their online presence continued, and their membership grew.
This project has rejuvenated the residents, the Church, and the community at large.
The architectural aesthetic uses the same design as the existing building, Simpson Gardens 1. Design elements from the existing neighboring grand Victorian homes were intentionally included, such as the steep pitched roof, gable trim, large windows, building materials, and color combinations.
Both buildings are greatly welcomed by the town to serve their seniors. The integration of the Garden Church within the building, along with functioning common spaces, has renewed the deeper connections between the town’s residents by providing spaces to use for the greater community events.
The residents enjoy on-site parking, the lobby, separate rooms for dining, activities, mail, and fitness, a library, internet access, laundry in each apartment, large windows, on-site management, a trash room on each floor, two elevators, and, most of all, the Garden Church worship space.