More than three years after the Wilbur Chocolate factory in downtown Lititz went dark, its ongoing revitalization is about to bear its first fruit.
Not to mention its initial pasta, meat, coffee, wine, smoothies, bread and grilled entrees.
Market At The Wilbur, a food hall with six vendors, will open Aug. 29. About 10 days later, a 150-seat Blackworth Live Fire Grill restaurant will debut.
The rest of phase one at the North Broad Street site will be completed soon too, according to project developer Oak Tree Development.
The 74-room Wilbur hotel, one of Hilton’s high-end Tapestry hotels, will debut in the coming weeks. Twenty-five condominiums, all of them sold, will be finished throughout this fall.
Mayor Tim Snyder praised Oak Tree for giving the property new life and, in the process, giving the north end of the borough a new destination that will benefit other merchants there.
“What they’re doing is exceptional. It’s looking great,” said Snyder. “It’s going to be a tremendous addition to downtown.”
Also this fall, construction of phase two will begin — 34 independent-living apartments for seniors, offered through Pleasant View Communities, and 170 market-rate apartments for the general public.
To be constructed on the west side of the 11-acre Wilbur property, the apartments will be ready for occupancy beginning in late summer 2020.
Oak Tree officials previously had announced that these uses were coming to the Wilbur property. They provided a tour and updated timetable to LNP on Tuesday.
New look, new life
At a total cost of more than $60 million, the redevelopment of the Wilbur site is transforming an outdated industrial complex from vacant and drab to vibrant and dazzling.
Its remarkable rebound was hard to envision back in January 2016, when Wilbur Chocolate owner Cargill closed the inefficient plant and idled about 100 employees.
But all the new uses combined will create about 90 jobs, according to Ian Ruzow, a partner in Lancaster-based Oak Tree, one of the most active developers in the county.
About 20 of those jobs will be at the Market At The Wilbur, which was inspired by food halls in big cities such as Union Market in Washington D.C. and Eataly in New York City, said Ruzow.
The six vendors will be Zig’s Bakery, Waltz Vineyards, Rooster Street Butcher and Deli, Oola Bowls, Whiff Roasters and Presto Scratch Pasteria.
They’ll share a 2,000-square-foot space along North Broad Street, although Ruzow said the concept drew enough interest to fill 10,000 square feet.
Customers will be able to buy food to eat there (the market will have 20 seats inside plus 12 outside), or to take home and eat. The vendors also will sell food that customers can take home and cook.
Ruzow and Oak Tree President Mike O’Brien said the food hall will serve people who live, stay, visit or work at the Wilbur property.
It also will serve people who live, stay, visit or work elsewhere in the Lititz area, such as the 400 Lancaster General Health employees who are moving into the former Susquehanna Bank headquarters on nearby North Cedar Street.
News that Lancaster General Health was bringing so many employees to the borough from the Burle Business Park “solidified” Oak Tree’s decision to go forward with its market, said Ruzow.
Lancaster General Health spokesman John Lines said the employees will relocate in mid 2020.
Ruzow said food halls, which he described as “the new food trucks,” make sense for both consumers and vendors.
“Consumers love the idea of having a choice of dining options all under one roof and the restaurants like it because it allows them to expand their brand or create an offshoot from their brand at a much lower cost than opening a restaurant,” he said.