The proposed redevelopment of the vacant Stehli Silk Mill has advanced closer to becoming a reality, now that the plan has won a key approval from the Manheim Township commissioners.

The 5-0 vote Monday to approve the project's land development plan puts the $35 million apartment venture on a slightly later timetable than what was predicted most recently, in July, Baltimore developer Larry Silverstein indicated.

The new schedule calls for construction to start this summer, rather than this spring. Occupancy of the 165 market-rate apartments would begin in fall 2022, rather than summer or fall 2022. Construction would be finished in spring 2023, he said.

“We are currently getting bids for the construction and look forward to starting as soon as we are permitted,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein’s plan comes at an ideal time for him and the community. The cost of borrowing money to finance such ventures is extremely low; meanwhile, demand for rental housing here is high.

The revitalized Stehli complex will have mostly one-bedroom units, but also some studio and two-bedroom apartments. They will rent for $1,200 to $2,000 a month, Silverstein said.

The complex also will have a small restaurant and one or two small office spaces. Silverstein said he has yet to start seeking commercial tenants for those.

Stehli, a Swiss silk-mill operator, announced its plan to open its first American plant here in 1897, according to newspaper accounts at the time. The first phase of the complex, designed by renowned Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban, began operating the next year.

What became a five-phase complex, completed over several decades, sits on an 11-acre property at Marshall and Martha avenues, near Lancaster Catholic High School. The buildings measure 200,000 square feet, the size of a Walmart superstore.

Largely vacant for the past 40 years, the complex’s size, condition and cost to renovate have thwarted a number of other developers who eyed reusing the property, now blighted and a frequent target of vandals.

Silverstein, though, has a track record of successfully revitalizing idle and dilapidated historic buildings.

To increase the financial return on his investment, Silverstein is hoping to obtain a 10-year, graduated property-tax break from the township, the county and Manheim Township School District through the state’s LERTA (Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance) program.

Silverstein, whose interest in the site was first reported by LNP | LancasterOnline two years ago, also needs to win several project approvals from Lancaster city, as a sliver of the Stehli property is in the city.

--Correspondent Joan Kern contributed to this story.

What to read next