Trinity-Rev. William M. James Senior Housing Opens its Doors

Trinity-Rev. William M. James Senior Housing Opens its Doors

3/29/2022

By: NYAC Communications

Three years ago Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, Rev. Dr. William Shillady, cabinet members, members of the United Methodist City Society Board of Directors, political leaders, project staff from the Bronx Pro Group team, community members, and others gathered for a a special day of prayer, celebration, and a blessing of the construction for the Trinity-Rev. William M. James Senior Housing Complex in the Bronx.

For many, the project would be a dream come true. Last month, that dream—five years in the making—became a reality. The recent completion of the 12-story, $88 million building chock full of amenities, a community space, and touches to acknowledge its UMC origins marks the end of a construction project and the beginning of a whole new life for scores of seniors. 
 
Fifty-seven formerly homeless seniors and 86 seniors and spouses have already moved into this facility, which is a prime example of how to repurpose a church property for the good of the community. A joint venture between the City Society and Bronx Pro Group, the property developers, the Trinity-James Senior Housing complex has 57 studio units for formerly incarcerated seniors and 96 apartments—73 studios and 33 one-bedrooms—for seniors. 

 



All of the apartments are reserved for individuals and families that earn 60% of the area median income or less. The building also includes community space, an exercise room, an indoor greenhouse, a garden, and an outdoor gym.

Five Years of Negotiation and Design Bears Fruit

“It took five years of negotiation and design, and now it is complete,” says Rev. Dr. William Shillady, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of The United Methodist City Society.  “I praise God for the opportunity to have had a small part in the building of God’s kingdom here in the Bronx.”
 
Located on the former site of Trinity-Morrisania United Methodist Church (Washington Avenue at East 166th Street)the building retains some stained glass and architectural elements of the church. The City Society has owned the property since the 1940s and will retain a 25 percent partnership in the new building.

It was fourteen years ago when Shillady first met with the Bronx Pro Group as they were building affordable housing across the street from the church property. “When I saw the door lintel on the Bronx Pro building directly across the street from the Trinity site, I knew I needed to meet the developer,” he says. “It reads, as does our entrance – ‘With God's Love all things are possible.’  I believe that truth more so than ever--now that we are providing a beautiful home and community for so many who did not have a decent place with affordable rent to live in.”

New Life for a Church Building with an Illustrious History

For a long time, Trinity Church struggled. It fell into disrepair and closed its doors on June 30, 2016.
 
But prior to that time, its rich history included a revitalization period that occurred when the Reverend Dr. William Marcus James served as its pastor from from 1944-1952. A leader in the fight for racial equality, Rev. James was an early champion of gay and lesbian rights. Naming the building after him was an acknowledgement of how his outreach and advocacy made a difference in the community.
 
That advocacy continues. The Fortune Society will operate a social services space in the building and provide support for the formerly-incarcerated residents, including on-site counseling, peer support to assist with re-entry and recovery, and case managers to help tenants remain stably housed and healthy. Residents will have a nurse onsite every day, access to occupational therapy, and an individualized service plan that is reviewed every 90 days.
 
“This is a new way to think about mission-driven development and a new opportunity for repurposing church property. To end with affordable housing, with a community center that can also be used as a church facility, and to have the opportunity to partner with other social service agencies is transformational,” Shillady concludes.