Silk Mill project likely to get environmental grant

Partnership hopes to create offices, apartments and eateries

Two months ago, the state announced that it will provide a $4 million grant and a $6 million loan so a local partnership can transform the former Puritan silk mill — near the site of the former Bon Secours hospital — into offices, apartments and eateries.

On Monday, Patrick Miller, CEO of the Greater Altoona Economic Develop­ment Corp., said the state is also likely to provide a $1 million grant for remediation of asbestos and lead paint in the old building.

Silk Mills Properties Inc., headed by architect John Radionoff and three executives of the Leonard S. Fiore construction company, is “waiting for approval” of the Industrial Site Reuse Program environmental funding from the Department of Community and Economic Development, Miller told the board.

Local officials are “pretty confident,” Miller said.

The Department of Environmental Protection has already signed off on the “scope of work” for remediation, Miller said.

The partnership hopes the $1.3 million worth of environmental cleanup work could begin next month and be finished in the fall, Miller said.

The Altoona-Blair County Development Corp., GAEDC’s parent, will take possession of the property until the remediation ends to qualify the project for the grant, Miller said.

Demolition of 80,000 square feet of the building to “right-size” the structure at 91,000 square feet could begin before the end of the year, Miller said.

The previously approved grant and loan are from the Business in Our Sites program and were approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, officials said in January.

ABCD is the conduit for that funding, officials said then.

The partnership plans to create 70,000 square feet of Class A office space, 10 or 11 “high-end” apartments in an upper floor, a restaurant and a cafe, officials said previously.

Given the General Assembly’s annual effort to cut expenses to make ends meet for recent state budgets, the partnership has been “lucky” to get the funding for the project, Miller said.

But the project has merit, he said.

Not only will it reuse a brownfield site, but it will help satisfy a demand for office space and residential space that a market feasibility study showed exists in that area, and it will complement the nearby Graystone Grande Palazzo senior housing project at the Bon Secours site, as well as the nearly remodeled Elizabeth Apartments at the intersection of Broad and Union avenues, Miller said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.