Brick Property Services and the Lebanon County Housing & Redevelopment Authority held a ribbon-cutting and open house for its latest project, DiMatteo Plaza Apartments, a six-bedroom affordable housing complex located in a former office building in Cleona.

The building at 137 W. Penn Ave. was purchased by Brick Property Services from Lebanon Valley Insurance Co. for $400,000 in 2020.

The front of DiMatteo Plaza Apartments. The complex was completed by Arthur Funk & Sons Inc. The facility features six one-bedroom apartments, and a food bank will be located on the basement floor in the future. (Will Trostel)
Facing east on West Penn Avenue, the apartment is near local businesses such as G.F. Bowman and Martin Appliance. (Will Trostel)

A $700,000 grant awarded in 2022 allowed the redevelopment authority to begin renovating the first floor of the property into six one-bedroom apartments for affordable housing. Additional financing for the project was secured with assistance from Palmyra Area Interfaith Manor Housing Council.

Read More: Redevelopment authority will renovate Cleona building for senior housing

The second floor remains in use as office space by the redevelopment authority and Brick Property Services, while the basement is slated to become the site of the Caring Cupboard food pantry satellite location.

The units will be available to rent for $838 per unit, including utilities, for income-eligible tenants. The program operates under HOME guidelines, which means that four of the six units must be occupied by tenants within 60% of area median income, while the other two units must be occupied by tenants within 50% of the area median income. The median income figures are based on family size. These units are limited to a max two-person occupancy.

(Provided graphic)

“If any of you looked at the housing study that came out earlier this year, it showed the incredible need for affordable (housing),” said Karen Groh, CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “And affordable means that it matches the income of those who have that need. It doesn’t mean anything other than making sure that we’re matching the wages of our citizens with the ability to pay for housing for themselves.

“So this is hugely needed.”

Read More: New study highlights countywide housing problems, provides potential solutions

Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, speaks alongside Karen Rough, CEO of Brick Property Services. (Will Trostel)

During the ceremony, the project was recognized as a great example of a public-private partnership by representatives from Congressman Dan Meuser’s office and state Senator Chris Gebhard’s office, as well as by state Rep. Russ Diamond and Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz.

Representatives spoke on behalf of Congressman Dan Meuser at the event. (Will Trostel)
Representatives on behalf of state Senator Chris Gebhard presented achievement awards. (Will Trostel)
State Rep. Russ Diamond attended the event as a speaker. Diamond presented a citation for the project and congratulated Raugh and Brick Property Services on the achievement. (Will Trostel)
Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz speaks. (Will Trostel)
Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, presents Karen Raugh, right, with a certificate of congratulations for the ribbon-cutting. (Will Trostel)

The building is named in honor of Robert DiMatteo, the late Palmyra-area businessman who co-founded ASK Foods in 1948. DiMatteo died in 2012, but during his life he made an impact on affordable housing in the area, including more than 30 years as president of the Palmyra Area Interfaith Housing Council. DiMatteo’s daughter, Wendy DiMatteo, the current CEO of ASK Foods, said during the ceremony that her father was smiling down.

Ribbon-cutting participants including Karen Raugh, CEO of Brick Property Services, and community members including Wendy DiMatteo, middle, whose father’s contributions to local housing led to his name on the building. DiMatteo is the CEO of Palmyra-based ASK Foods. (Will Trostel)

“Bob was passionate about serving his church and local organizations like the Lebanon Valley Brethern Home, the Rotary Club, the Phoenix Youth Center, and the Caring Cupboard,” said Brick Property Services CEO Karen Raugh.

“Bob loved to give back to the community and today we are grateful to give back by naming this building after Robert DiMatteo.”

In her remarks, Raugh recognized Bryan Hoffman, former head of the Housing and Redevelopment Authority, for kickstarting the project in 2020 with the purchase of the building.

Raugh is the current executive director of the redevelopment authority. (Brick Property Services is the private property management subsidiary of the housing authority and is contracted by Lebanon Housing Authority to run property management of their properties.)

Karen Raugh, CEO of Brick Property Services, speak to open house guests. (Will Trostel)

“Without Bryan’s knack for seeing the possibility of this old insurance building, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Raugh.

Raugh also credited Hammel Associates for the architectural design, Arthur Funk & Sons for the renovation, and Fulton Bank for their financing partnership.

“Thank you to the Cleona Borough and all our neighbors who have warmly welcomed us to this neighborhood,” said Raugh. “We know our new tenants will be thrilled to live in such an inviting community.”

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William Trostel is a full-time freelance photographer/videographer based out of Lebanon City. Beginning his career as a hobbyist trying to film his friends skateboarding, his camera quickly turned into a passion. Within two years of being a hobbyist, William began to book portrait sessions and commercial...


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