Baltimore developer Larry Silverstein, who is contemplating whether to redevelop the long-vacant Stehli silk mill, says he’s “80 to 90%” sure he’ll go forward with the $30 million project.

LNP reported in February that Silverstein had signed a sales agreement to buy the 11-acre property for an undisclosed price and would decide within two months whether to go forward.

Silverstein last week said that he’s “leaning toward” doing the Manheim Township project.

 “The project will hinge on the amount of support we can get from the (township),” he said in an email.

Silverstein, president of adaptive-reuse firm Union Box Co., said he needs the township to allow for development in phases to address the “unique issues that a project like this encounters.” The firm specializes in converting old, empty buildings into apartments, stores and office space. 

Baltimore developer eyes vacant Stehli complex for $30M revitalization

What's the township's response?

Manheim Township Commissioner Sam Mecum said he expects the township to do whatever it can. He said one possibility would be to draft a tax-abatement ordinance such as a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) program, which offers a 10-year break in property taxes.

“I anticipate that the Township will support the Stehli renovation project to the full extent of our resources, consistent with our various codes and ordinances,” Mecum said in an email.

Having Silverstein approach a large-scale project such as the Stehli redevelopment in phases wouldn’t be an issue for the township -- that’s the typical way big ventures are done, he added.

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Several efforts have been made over the years to re-develop the empty Stehli Silk Mill in the Rossmere neighborhood of Lancaster .

What’s the proposed plan for the complex?

Silverstein’s proposed plan would, over the course of three years, turn the buildings into 120 to 140 market-rate apartments and “limited” retail. The Stehli complex sits at Marshall and Martha avenues near Lancaster Catholic High School.

Rents would range from between $1,000 to $1,500 a month. “We have seen that the market can support the rents we would need,” which would range from about $1,000 to $1,500 a month,” Silverstein said.

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When all five expansions were complete, in 1925, Lancaster's Stehli Silk Mill was the longest single building in America. 

Why Stehli?

“We like the neighborhood, and the buildings are in good shape structurally. So combining that with our restoration experience with historic projects makes Stehli a natural fit,” Silverstein said.

Architect's work on Lancaster's Stehli mill was smooth as silk

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Stehli property now consists of about 200,000 square feet of buildings, roughly the same amount of floor space as a Walmart superstore has.

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Stehli Silk Mill closed operations in the decade after World War II. 


What’s the next step?

An architect and land planner need to be selected. A land-development plan would then be filed with the township in six to 10 months, Silverstein said.

“As we proceed down the development path we will be meeting with the (township) to discuss the possible hurdles to overcome and how we get to a solution that is workable for everyone….hopefully,” he said.

Lisa Douglas, the township’s director of planning and zoning, noted that the township wants to see the Stehli property revitalized and said the township staff “will work with the developer — and any developer — to navigate through the challenges of the process and the regulations.”

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Stehli Silk Mill wasn't C. Emlen Urban's first industrial commission. It was preceded in 1896 by the S.R. Moss Cigar Factory on North Prince Street. 


Stehli’s history: A timeline

1897: Stehli & Co., a Zurich-based silk manufacturing company, announced it was coming to Lancaster. Famed Lancaster architect C. Emlen Urban was picked to design its buildings.

1925: All five phases of expansion were completed. “The mill employed more than 1,600 workers, contained 250,000 square feet of floor space, 2,500 windows, 1,100 looms and was 883 feet in length, making it the longest single building in America and the second longest in the world,” Lancaster architect Greg Scott wrote about the site in 2017.

1954: The mill closed.

1955: RCA bought the property, using it for production of color television picture tubes and power tubes, as well as storage.

1973: RCA sold the complex to a warehousing firm.

2007: An investment group led by managing member Graham Capital bought the property.

2016: After replacing the roofs and taking some other steps to stabilize the buildings, Graham Capital announced it was looking to sell the site or partner with someone to renovate it.