TOWANDA - The planned $11 million development in part of the 400 block of Main Street in Towanda is another step closer to becoming a reality.

The Towanda Borough Zoning Hearing Board this week unanimously approved a special exception permit needed for the 38 apartments for the elderly that will be located on the second, third and fourth stories of the building that is planned for the site.

The apartments "will be targeted toward moderate-income elderly people," said Dennis Phelps, executive director of Trehab Center Inc., which is partnering with Towanda Borough to develop the site.

The first floor of the building would have 6,514 square feet of commercial space as well as a "community room" for the building's tenants, he said. At the back of the building will be a courtyard that the tenants can use, he said.

Under the current design, all of the apartments are one-bedroom units, Phelps said. However, he said the design of the project is subject to change.

Behind the building will be a municipal parking garage.

Towanda Borough Manager Tom Fairchild Jr. said he is hoping that the garage will accommodate more than 200 parking spaces.

The garage will include 38 spaces that will be reserved for the apartments as well as additional spaces reserved for the commercial occupants of the building's first floor.

Taking into account the parking spaces that will be lost through the construction of the development, as well as the spaces that will be reserved for the development itself, a 200-space garage would result in a net gain of 75 parking spaces for the downtown, Fairchild said.

One of the main reasons why a special exception permit is required is that the borough needs to assure that there will be adequate fire protection for the building's upper floors, Towanda Borough Zoning Officer Jim Haight said.

The building will be sprinklered and will be well within the reach of ladders of local fire departments' ladder trucks, he said.