The revitalization of Williamsport’s Old Town neighborhood took another step forward when Lycoming County Commissioners approved a grant application totaling $1,012,240 to support the construction of a parking structure there.
The request was made by Old City Williamsport LLC, a limited liability partnership between Lycoming College and Pine Ridge Construction Management.
The parking structure is 165 spaces which could support the commercial building, which is 40,000 square feet, and
12 residential townhouses with 60,000 square feet of retail space, according to Jerry Lariviere of Pine Ridge Construction.
Speaking at the weekly commissioners’ meeting, Dr Kent Trachte, president of Lycoming College, said the parking structure will help build the mixed-use development planned for this area.
“What we’re asking you to do is not support our building or not support the mixed-use structure, but support a parking structure that will be needed to keep this development going,” said Trachte.
The more than $20 million development will be built in the area between Basin and Third Streets and Fourth and Academy Streets.
Trachte said he was first approached by business and public community leaders about the college’s partnership with private and public entities to advance the vision for the Old City area where is the college.
Following the formation of a commission and the formulation of a plan, things appear to be stalling, Trachte said.
“It was clear that for the action to actually happen, the college had to move forward,” he said.
By then, the college had embarked on a comprehensive master plan and strategic plan. Part of that, Trachte said, was the vision for a new college entrance along Basin Street.
“From a college perspective, we made the decision to start locating some of our new buildings in this particular area,” said Trachte.
“The college has invested approximately $20 million in donations that we have raised or funds from our endowment, so the college has stepped forward and made a substantial investment to bring this vision of a revitalized Old Town to fruition. “, he said.
During this time, the college worked with the city, county, and PennDot to secure grants to improve infrastructure in that area, which Trachte said was the government’s role in economic development.
“The job of the college is to buy buildings for learning and to bring students to the area and to have our employees use things,” he said, adding that they found a private developer for “Bring in the investment dollars to put the mixed-use structure in there.”
“The college has taken the next step of bringing in a private developer to complete a mixed-use project that will anchor the revitalization of this neighborhood and utilize our land. So we are forming two limited liability companies together and the college will continue to be a partner going forward with Pine Ridge,” he explained.
The county will have 42 spaces in the parking structure that it will be permitted to use or rent, Commissioner Rick Mirabito said.
“I want the public to understand that the commissioners are not proposing to use property tax money for this,” said Mirabito.
Other funding such as Act 13 funds will be allocated. The total amount of city, county, and state funding is 11%, with the county contributing approximately 3.9% specifically.
“This means that 89% of the funds come from private entities, with the college or Pine Ridge”, said Mirabito.
“I think it’s important for the public to understand that it’s not like we’re making a 30% investment in this,” he added.
One of the objectives of the Old Town project is to improve the economic vitality as well as the appearance of the district.
“The quality of life at Williamsport impacts our ability to recruit students,” said Trachte.
“There is a personal interest in the college, which when we were doing our strategic planning, we determined that the environment was a negative factor in terms of our ability to attract students,” He continued.
“So, yes, the board is happy to invest in Williamsport, but they are happy to invest in Williamsport because they understand that the vitality of Williamsport is integral to maintaining both fiscal integrity and the vitality of Lycoming College as a center of learning community,” Trachte added.
The county will also benefit from the project as it seeks to repopulate.
“We have to grow” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “We need to increase our population and this will be one of the mechanisms we use to do that.”
In other cases, commissioners have approved the following:
• A sub-recipient agreement with STEP, Inc. for the 2019 Community Development Block Grant funds for $96,000.
• An amendment to a sub-recipient agreement with YWCA Northcentral PA for the 2019-20 PA Housing Affordability Funds program to extend the grant until November 30 for their Liberty House program.
• A rental contract with LAMAR companies for a payment of $900 per month to the county.
• A grant from 902 Developing and Implementing Municipal Recycling Programs of $233,918 for the replacement container truck and reimbursement for a skid steer loader. This grant is 90% from the Department of Environmental Protection and the county will take the remaining 10%, or approximately $23,000.
The next meeting of Commissioners will be at 10 a.m. on August 4 in the Board of Commissioners Room, 1st Floor Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.