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Rock Lititz, LGH and a secret project: 10 Lancaster County projects awarded $12.9 million in total

New jobs. New hotel rooms. New rehearsal space. New recreation.

And one lingering mystery.

These are some of the local results of new state funding through the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which the state Office of the Budget announced last week.

The program earmarked $12.9 million for 10 projects in Lancaster County, the Office of Budget indicated, part of $455 million allocated to 350 projects statewide. Grant recipients must contribute an amount that’s at least equal to the state grant.

Three more local projects did not get funded for undisclosed reasons.

Perhaps the most potent economic impact will result from a project that’s also the biggest secret – the possible retrofit of a vacant distribution center near Mount Joy for “an internationally recognized e-commerce company.”

If the unidentified firm decides to come here, the project will create 300 jobs and relocate 100 more “from a neighboring municipality,” developer Robert Redcay said in his application for funding that he submitted earlier this year.

Redcay received the full $1.02 million he sought to help pay for improved lighting, loading and parking at the 1156 Four Star Drive building, formerly leased to Forever 21 and School Specialty. The 414,000-square-foot building in Rapho Township has stood vacant since 2016.

Redcay this week again declined to identify his possible tenant, saying he was prohibited by a nondisclosure agreement with the firm, as he said in September when LNP | LancasterOnline first reported on his project.

And though the description of the potential tenant appears to fit the Amazon delivery station in Elizabethtown, an Amazon spokesman this week said the station is staying put. Rapho Township manager Randall Wenger said the township doesn’t know the tenant’s name either.

So for now, the mystery continues.

Here’s a look at the other nine Lancaster County projects to win state funding.

- The biggest sum awarded here went to Rock Lititz, which received $2.5 million for a previously announced second rehearsal space to be built onto the first rehearsal studio. Rock Lititz had sought $4.0 million.

Rock Lititz Studio 2, at 85 feet high and 40,000 square feet of floor space, will be slightly lower and smaller than the original studio, which measures 100 feet high and 52,000 square feet. It opened in 2014 as the first building on the live-event industry campus.

The second studio was to be part of a $41.7 million expansion at Rock Lititz in 2020. Then COVID-19 struck in the spring, shutting down the industry before construction of the second studio got underway, prompting Rock Lititz to put the studio project and some other pieces of the expansion on hold.

But Rock Lititz manager Andrea Shirk said this week that Rock Lititz, perhaps encouraged by the development of COVID-19 vaccines, now wants to have the second studio operational sometime in 2022.

“When the live-event industry has recovered from the devastating economic effects of this pandemic, we forecast significant demand for studio rehearsal space,” Shirk said in a statement.

As for the rest of that 2019 expansion plan, another multi-tenant building, named Pod 5, and Mickey’s Black Box performance/event venue, are set to open next year. But a new building for Clair Global and further expansion of the original studio building remain on hold.

Including this latest grant, Rock Lititz has received $21.5 million in state assistance to develop its Warwick Township campus, just west of Route 501 and south of Newport Road.

- A Marietta businessman and the Lancaster County Redevelopment Authority are teaming up to turn the borough’s historic railroad depot into a trailhead station and event/banquet space, with the help of $1.0 million from the state.

Businessman Freddy States, who owns the Perry and West Front streets depot, as well as the Railroad House restaurant across the street and McCleary’s Public House nearby, had sought $1.1 million for the venture.

The project is intended to serve hikers using the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail as well as visitors, and encourage them to explore the rest of downtown Marietta.

The empty depot, constructed in mid-1800s, will be complemented by the authority’s half-acre lot next door, which will provide parking, open space and public amenities such as benches, bike rentals and solar-powered vehicle charging stations, said Justin Eby, the authority’s deputy executive director.

- The Compass Mill complex restoration project, 813-819 Rothsville Road in Warwick Township, received $1.5 million of the $2.0 million it sought. A 2022 opening is scheduled.

Its owners plan to turn the historic 1776 mill into offices and event space, demolish two front buildings to provide parking and a better view of the mill from the road, and acquire adjoining land to improve traffic flow, according to the state.

The reopening date of the mill, along Lititz Run, has not been set. However, another building on the site reopened in November as Artisan Mill, where more than 50 woodworkers, artists and vendors operate, LNP | LancasterOnline reported previously.

- A company named 321 Manor LLC received the full $1.3 million it sought to create develop medical offices, stores and restaurants on a 3.8-acre portion of a property owned by the language school Immerse International in Millersville Borough.

The state grant would help fund the installation of water lines, sewer lines and storm water management on the tract, at the northeast corner of Manor and Leaman avenues. A spokesman for the developer could not be immediately reached for comment.

- The developer of the Chip Factory Hotel in Columbia received the entire $1.0 million it sought to perform site work for what will be a 79-room hotel, restaurant, bar and rooftop lounge. In total, the five-story venture will cost more than $10 million.

Don Murphy of developer Cimarron Investments said he hopes that work will begin in early to mid-2021, with the hotel opening in late 2022, a time when Murphy believes the damage to the hospitality industry caused by COVID-19 will have passed.

Murphy first disclosed his plan to redevelop the former potato chip plant of Becker Pretzel Bakeries, 12 N. Second St., in 2018. When the hotel opens as an Ascend Collection franchise, a brand of Choice Hotels International,  it will create about 60 jobs, he added.

- SACA Development received $500,000 of the $3.4 million it sought to open Tec Centro Southwest, 57 Laurel St., a former Head Start Center near Kunzler & Co.

As was previously announced, Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology will offer bilingual training in several high-demand construction trades – plumbing, HVAC and commercial/industrial electrical -- at the facility. SACA will offer training for clerical and health care jobs, as well as English as a second language classes.

A mid-March opening is planned, with a focus on serving people who lost their jobs or had their work hours reduced due to COVID-19.

The project also will receive $300,000 of the $95 million that the county received in federal CARES Act funding, thanks to the Lancaster County Commissioners.

- Lancaster General Hospital received $1.0 million of the $2.5 million it sought to help offset the expense of relocating and expanding its kitchen, a project costing more than $5 million. LGH needs to relocate its kitchen to make room for the previously announced expansion of its emergency department.

Its current kitchen, built in 1990, was designed to provide 900 patient meals and 700 retail meals (to employees, visitors, etc.) per day, said spokesman John Lines. But today it serves 1,300 patient meals and 1,600 retail meals per day, figures that are expected to grow 20% when the emergency department expansion is done.

The new kitchen, set to be completed in early 2022, will allow LGH to boost its meal production, broaden its healthy and locally sourced offerings, and increase its storage capacity. With that, LGH will offer more places to sit, eat and relax, Lines said.

- Lancaster city received $1.5 million of the $4.0 million it sought to help pay for razing and replacing fire stations on West King Street and East King Street.

Fire Station No. 1 at 425 W. King St. shut down in mid-February and was razed. Though construction of its replacement was delayed by COVID-19 for about 45 days this spring, work has resumed and now is 30% complete, said Fire Chief Scott Little. A June opening is scheduled.

Work then will shift to Station No. 3 at 333 E. King St. Demolition of the existing station and construction of its replacement are scheduled to be complete in June 2022, Little said. The cost of the work at both locations combined will be $12.7 million.

- Lititz Borough received the full $1.5 million it sought to help fund changes to the Norfolk Southern line that runs through the borough. Work will include purchasing a right of way, constructing a parallel track to let rail cars get switched and stored west of the Johnson & Johnson plant on West Lincoln Avenue and removing an at-grade crossing at North Broad Street.

Unsuccessful applications for state grants were filed by LIDL, Mount Joy Borough and Way of Jesus Academy.

LIDL, the discount grocery chain, sought $2.0 million because it redeveloped a blighted property at Good Drive and Columbia Avenue in East Hempfield Township into a new store. The store opened in November.

Mount Joy Borough sought $2.5 million to help fund renovation of existing borough facilities to create more space for its police department, which is out of room to grow. Borough Manager Casey Kraus said borough council will consider reapplying for the grant next year.

Way of Jesus Academy also sought $2.5 million to help fund construction of a new, larger school at its Hershey Avenue campus that would allow the school to more than double its enrollment to 175 students. A school official could not be immediately reached for comment.

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