The revitalization of the Old City area of Williamsport took another step forward as the Lycoming County commissioners approved a request for grant funds totalling $1,012,240 to support the construction of a parking structure there.
The request was made by Old City Williamsport LLC, a limited liability corporation between Lycoming College and Pine Ridge Construction Management company.
The parking structure is 165 stalls that could support the commercial building, which is 40,000 square feet, and
12 residential townhomes with 60,000 square feet of retail space, according to Jerry Lariviere, of Pine Ridge Construction.
Speaking at the commissioners’ weekly meeting, Dr. Kent Trachte, president of Lycoming College, said the parking structure will aid in the construction of the mixed use development planned for that area.
“What we are asking you to do is not to support our building or not to support the mixed use structure, but to support a parking structure that’s going to be needed in order for this development to continue to proceed,” Trachte said.
The over $20 million development will be built in the area between Basin and Third streets and Fourth and Academy streets.
Trachte said that he was first approached by business and public leaders in the community about the college partnering with private and public entities for moving forward the vision for the Old City area where the college is located.
Following a commission being formed and a plan formulated, things seem to stall, Trachte said.
“It was clear that, in order for action to actually occur, the college needed to step forward,” he said.
At that point, the college had embarked on a comprehensive master plan and a strategic plan. Part of that, Trachte said, was the vision of a new entrance to the college along Basin Street.
“From the college’s perspective we made the decision to begin to locate some of our new buildings in that particular area,” Trachte said.
“The college has invested about $20 million of gifts that we have raised or funds from our endowment so the college has stepped forward and made a substantial investment in order for this vision for a revitalized Old City to take place,” he said.
During that time, the college worked with the city, the county and PennDot to secure grants to improve the infrastructure in that area, which Trachte said he felt was the role of government when it comes to economic development.
“The job of the college is to buy buildings for learning and bring students to the area and have our employees utilize things,” he said, adding that they have found a private developer to “bring the investment dollars to put the mixed use structure there.”
“The college has taken its next step which is to bring to the table a private developer to do a mixed use project that will anchor the revitalization of this neighborhood and utilize our land. So we are forming together two limited liability corporations and the college will continue to be a partner on a going forward basis with Pine Ridge,” he explained.
The county will have 42 spaces in the parking structure which they will be allowed to use or lease, Commissioner Rick Mirabito pointed out.
“I want the public to understand that the commissioners are not proposing to use property tax dollars for this,” Mirabito said.
Other funding such as Act 13 funds will be allocated. The total amoound of funding from the city, county and state is 11% with the county contributing specifically around 3.9%.
“That means that 89% of the funds are coming from private entities, with the college or Pine Ridge,” Mirabito said.
“I think it’s important for the public to understand that this is not like we’re doing a 30% investment in this,” he added.
One of the goals of the Old City project is to improve the economic vitality as well as the appearance of the area.
“The quality of life in Williamsport impacts our ability to recruit students,” Trachte said.
“There is a self interest for the college, which when we were doing our strategic planning, we determined that the surroundings were a negative factor in terms of our ability to attract students,” he continued.
“So, yes, the board is pleased to invest in Williamsport, but they’re pleased to invest in Williamsport because they understand that the vitality of Williamsport is an integral element in maintaining both the fiscal integrity and the vitality of Lycoming College as a learning community,” Trachte added.
The county will also benefit from the project as it looks to repopulate.
“We need to grow,” said Commissioner Tony Mussare. “We need to increase our population and this will be one of the mechanisms that we use to do that.”
In other business, the commissioners approved the following:
• A subrecipient agreement with STEP, Inc. for 2019 Community Development Block Grant funds for $96,000.
• An amendment to a subrecipient agreement with the YWCA Northcentral PA for 2019-20 PA Housing Affordability Funds program to extend the grant to Nov. 30 for their Liberty House program.
• A lease agreement with LAMAR companies for a payment of $900 a month to the county.
• An award of 902 Development & Implementation of Municipal Recycling Programs grant for $233,918 for the replacement roll-off container truck and a reimbursement for a skid steer. This grant is 90% Department of Environmental Protection and the county will pick up the remaining 10%, or about $23,000.
The next commissioners meeting will be at 10 a.m. Aug. 4 in the Commissioners’ Board Room, 1st floor Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St.