Breaking ground on affordable senior housing project

Published 12:10 am Sunday, September 10, 2023

SALISBURY — The vacant building that once was a Ford dealership and City Consignment Co. will soon be the new location for the Ford City Motor Lofts, an affordable senior housing project that will be co-owned by two non-profits, Osceola Council on Aging and The Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

On Sept. 7, Osceola Council on Aging and the HUD North Carolina Field Office hosted a groundbreaking at the former Ford Motor City Company located at 419 South Main Street near downtown Salisbury.

The site will have 64 total units that includes two studio apartments, 38 one bedroom apartments, and 24 two bedroom apartments. It will also have a playground, a fitness center, computer room and laundry. Many activities like congregate meals, history, art, urban gardening, music and yoga will be available. The plan is to renovate the original building and construct an additional facility.

Originally from central Florida, Osceola Council on Aging had an opportunity to apply for a HUD grant for the property, so they could get more tax credits to build the property and make it affordable for residents.

“Our mission is to enable independence and self sufficiency for seniors,” said Wendy Ford, president and CEO of Osceola Council on Aging.

When considering expansion beyond their home state, Ford seized at the chance to stake their claim in Salisbury.

“There is a need for senior housing everywhere and we know that, affordable senior housing, HUD housing, assisted housing like that. We are so excited to have an adaptive reuse and a new building and to be able to really house 64 apartments,” said Ford.

Ford says she has a consultant in Salisbury that helped acclimate her to the area and introduced her to many local organizations like the Rowan Chamber of Commerce and especially Rufty Holmes Senior Center, “because I knew that would be the hub of what I needed to do, to get those seniors aware of the affordable housing that we can create for them,” Ford said.

Lorenzo Claxton, field office director for the North Carolina HUD Office, said that this new complex is the goal for what HUD sets out to do when people come to them for assistance in financing for housing.

“To ensure affordable housing, across the board for all Americans, is at hand’s reach,” Claxton said. “This is one of those projects that definitely encompasses our vision and values.”

Affordable housing takes many entities working together for it to be a reality. Semone Brisson managed a housing property similar to this one in the past and has seen private developers buy them, which ends up raising rates and increasing the rent. Brisson experienced the challenges of trying to find adequate housing for her older siblings and is concerned with the overall living conditions that seniors are subjected to. However, she is optimistic about the Ford City Motor Lofts fulfilling a need for affordable housing that will hold true by making sure prices do not substantially increase over time.

“It’s a central location that’s accessible to public transit. They’re not going to be off somewhere isolated, they can get out and walk, they can be a part of the community,” Brisson said. “Just to have a place to call their own.”

Lorna Medinger, the daughter of the building’s previous owner, Charles Rufty, has been searching for a number of years for the right project to come along to take over the space that her dad once operated as City Consignment Co. After getting through the obstacles of COVID and financing, Medinger feels confident Osceola Council on Aging will usher in a new kind of Salisbury.

“We wanted it to be something positive for the downtown, positive for the county at large,” Medinger said. “I think it’s going to be a big plus for Salisbury and Rowan County. To be proud to go by and see that it has become the dream continued for someone else.”

Construction will begin in early 2024.