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Pieces put in place for Kershaw Commons

New apartment building on Gully Road will be home to people who have MS

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — The civic service that the late Ray Kershaw provided to his community will be memorialized in a building that will eventually be the home for individuals who have multiple sclerosis (MS).

Earlier this month the Freehold Township Planning Board approved an application for a 30-unit residential rental project to be constructed behind Applewood Estates on Gully Road.

The building that will become home to people with MS will be known as Kershaw Commons.

Kershaw, who served on the Township Committee for almost two decades, devoted significant time and effort to raising money for the fight against MS.

Attorney Peter Licata of the firm Sonnenblick, Parker and Selvers represented the applicant, Regan Development Corporation, before the Planning Board. He described Kershaw Commons as a two-story low-rise building with elevator service.

Licata told the board there is a housing crisis for people with MS and said that situation been documented by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Testifying on behalf of Regan Development was Nancy Chazen of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, who discussed the needs of individuals who have MS.

MS is a chronic disease of the brain and spinal cord characterized by changes in sensation, visual problems, weakness, depression, difficulties with coordination and speech, impaired mobility and disability.

Chazen discussed Kershaw's longtime involvement with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as well as the involvement of CentraState Medical Center.

This facility (Kershaw Commons) will provide care for people who have MS without forcing them into a nursing home," she said. "It may also attract people who are already living in a nursing home."

Chazen said the facility will be named for Kershaw, who she called "a driving force to find location" for the residential project.

Ken Regan of Regan Development explained how the project will be a collaborative effort between Freehold Township and CentraState Medical Center. He said the housing complex would be an affordable rental complex coordinated with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Affordable rentals as defined by the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) means that the units will be rented at below market rates to individuals whose income meets regional guidelines established by COAH.

Regan said Kershaw Commons will be what is known as supportive housing (housing with various services provided on site). He said the financing is complex and will include funding from the New Jersey Special Needs Trust Fund.

He said the $10.6 million project will be built on a New Jersey brownfields site. The property is considered a brownfields site because pesticides were used on the land when it was farmed. Simple remediation of that issue is needed, according to Regan, and because the parcel is a brownfields site that is being remediated, that will allow the developer to qualify for additional funding.

Architect Jeremy Greene, of BartonPartners, Norristown, Pa., said the property on which Kershaw Commons will be built totals 3.3 acres. There will be 42 parking spaces, a walking trail, a bio-retention basin, a wellness center, 15 apartments on each floor of the building, one apartment for the on-site manager, and a sunroom and terrace on the second floor.

Greene said the exterior of the building will be harmonious with the adjacent Applewood Estates buildings and will have a brick exterior, and architectural elements such as gables and shed dormers.

Freehold Township officials have signed off on a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, according to Regan.

Township Administrator Thomas Antus explained that a PILOT program allows a developer to make an annual payment to the municipality in lieu of property taxes. Kershaw Commons is a tax-exempt project because it is hospital related, according to Antus.

He said once the building is 100 percent occupied the developer will make a payment every year.

"The developer will pay 4 percent of his revenues for the life of the mortgage," Antus explained, adding that the life of the mortgage according to the agreement cannot be for more than 50 years.

"This has a social benefit in that we are helping people with MS and a practical benefit for the Township Committee as well because it helps us receive credits for our (affordable housing obligation)," Antus said. "It is a win-win situation working with Regan Development and the governing body believes this project fulfills a need we have here."

Michael Elkow, vice president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Oakhurst, said Kershaw was referred to as the "guardian angel" of people who have MS.

"Ray came to us over 20 years ago and had no direct connection with MS and he has left his mark on people who have MS," he said.

Elkow said Kershaw, who died in 2009, was instrumental in helping to get the necessary approvals for a multiple sclerosis center at CentraState Medical Center seven years ago, as well as a new MS Wellness Center. Both centers are on the hospital campus on West Main Street in the township.

Elkow said the Linda E. Cardinale MS Center serves more than 800 individuals.

"Each time we would go to Ray he would find a way to help us. We have a wonderful partnership with Freehold Township and with CentraState Medical Center.

"When we told Ray there was zero housing for people with MS in the state, he was right there to help us, and now we will have this beautiful facility.

"We are so excited about this new housing (at Kershaw Commons). The administration at CentraState Medical Center and in Freehold Township have been so supportive of us. We are so blessed to have their partnership," Elkow said.