After years of planning, this is the year that new buildings will begin to rise from the brownfields left behind by the closure of two major industrial sites in Carlisle.
Construction of workforce housing and green space at the former Carlisle Tire & Wheel site is expected to get started in the coming months while work at the former Lear/IAC site is likely to begin later this year.
Creating a plan
The Carlisle Urban Redevelopment Plan was created in response to the closing of three industrial sites on the north side of town within a three-year span.
The demise began with an October 2008 announcement by International Automotive Components that it would close its doors on Dec. 12 of that year. The move brought an end to a manufacturing presence in the borough that began with the founding of C.H. Masland & Sons in 1919, and continued through a sale to Lear Corp. in 1996 which, in turn, sold the facility to IAC in 2007. By the time the plant along Carlisle Springs Road closed, some 152 employees were affected — significantly fewer than the plant’s post-World War II highs of more than 3,500 employees.
A year later, the borough faced a double whammy.
In January 2009, Tyco Electronics announced it was closing its plant on Hamilton Street by the end of March and relocating an unspecified number of jobs to plants in North and South Carolina.
Then, in July, Carlisle Tire & Wheel announced its plan to close its facility on North College Street and relocate operations to Tennessee after more than 90 years in the borough. About 340 workers were affected by the decision, and most were released by the company by Dec. 31, 2010.
Almost immediately after the closings, borough and county officials started talking about creating a vision for the sites that would guide development efforts. A plan by Stromberg/Garrigan Associates in 2013 described multimillion dollar infrastructure investments with mixed-use development including residential housing, retail and office uses.
As the plan is implemented, the borough’s role is to assist with the oversight of infrastructure at the site including transportation improvements as well as stormwater, sewer and water system projects, according to Borough Manager Matt Candland. In addition, the borough will assist developers with identifying funding sources.
It’s been nearly seven years since Carlisle Auto Industries, a sister company of Carlisle Events, purchased the site of the former Lear/IAC plant. Those seven years were marked by a four-alarm, accidental fire in 2012 and an equally massive demolition and clean-up project as crews removed buildings from the 48-acre property.
Aside from those highly visible events, the owners have been working to bring a mix of restaurants, a hotel and residential properties to the site. Those elements were first identified as priorities in 2013 during the areawide study that resulted in the creation of the Carlisle Urban Redevelopment Plan.
“Our plan mimics what that had in it with a few tweaks,” said Tom Richey, project consultant for Carlisle Auto Industries.
There are a lot of moving parts in bringing together a development plan like the one at the former industrial site, and the next piece should drop into place on May 11 when the Carlisle Borough Council holds a public hearing on a proposed liquor license for a restaurant to be built on the site. The restaurant will have the same owner as Marcello’s Ristorante and Pizzeria, located on Cavalry Road.
It’s a natural fit for Marcello’s owner Alfredo Iannuzzzi who started his business relationship with Carlisle Events six years ago with a small stand at the fairgrounds. That stand has grown to encompass a quarter of the grandstand, and Iannuzzi now provides the catering at the Carlisle Expo Center as well.
“It’s been in my dreams to have a restaurant like this since I was a kid,” Iannuzzi said.
The restaurant will be called Pompeii in tribute to Iannuzzi’s home in Italy from which he continually draws inspiration, and will feature what he called “coliseum-style decor.” The new 5,000-square-foot restaurant will serve brick-oven pizza, steak, seafood, pasta and salads.
Iannuzzi said the new restaurant will operate in addition to Marcello’s.
“It took us 12 years to get it to this point. I would be crazy to close a place like that,” he said.
The close proximity of a restaurant was a requirement in Carlisle Auto Industries’ agreement with Homewood Suites by Hilton to bring a rooms-only hotel to the site. Hotel construction is planned to start this fall, Richey said.
A drive-thru restaurant is also planned for the site.
“We don’t have one, but we did get approval for that,” Richey said.
Richey told the Carlisle Borough Council this month that agreements are close to being signed with a number of residential developers for remaining lots on the former industrial sites.
“We’re talking to people about all of those lots, but we haven’t signed anyone up yet,” Richey said.
Developers for each lot will need to bring site-specific plans before borough officials, including the zoning hearing board, the planning commission and the borough council for approval. These meetings will provide opportunity for public comment, Richey said.
Ideal construction weather comes at the same time as car show season, but Richey said the work on the site should not affect events at the fairgrounds.
“It’s not going to be on the active streets, so it will have little impact on the car shows from an operational point of view,” Richey said.
Days after the closing of Carlisle Tire & Wheel was announced, Omar Shute, then-executive director of the Cumberland County Economic Development Corp., told The Sentinel, “We’re going to be looking at some major changes at the site in the future, I’m sure.”
Nearly eight years later, major changes are indeed taking shape at the site.
Cleveland-based PIRHL has partnered with the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authority to create Carlisle Townhomes. The partnership will bring a total of 52 housing units, a clubhouse, and a 2.2-acre green space on 6.4 acres of land between a proposed B Street extension and D Street between College and Factory streets. The company will also extend C Street through the former Carlisle Tire & Wheel site.
“We hope to start construction this June and complete in June 2018,” said Mike Bier, development project manager for PIRHL.
For a long time, all that nearby residents will see is a lot of earth moving equipment as construction crews move material from south to north to raise the grade of the site on the northern end, said Justin Doty of Frederick, Seibert & Associates, engineers for the project.
Eventually, though, seven buildings will be constructed between C and D streets that will contain 40 two- and three-story town homes. Three other buildings will feature 12 flat-style apartments. All units, which will be built according to green construction principles, will contain two or three bedrooms and range from 1,000 to 1,450 square feet.
Town homes will be set close to the sidewalks along the street so they will have no front yard, and parking will be behind the structures in a large, central area.
“The idea is to mimic a downtown,” Doty said.
Unfortunately, many of the trees now on the lot fall at the same setback as the homes, and will need to be removed as a result. There will, however, be a number of bushes and more than 150 trees planted in the new development.
Developers were, however, able to save one tree at the site to the relief of neighbors who sought to preserve what trees they could.
“In the end, we were able to save one, so we will have a magnolia tree that will stand,” said Brenda Landis of the Carlisle West Side Neighbors.
Neighbors of the Carlisle Townhomes site have been generally happy with what they have seen as the plans have developed. PIRHL has included meetings with neighbors on its trips to the borough, and answered their questions.
“They’ve reached out to us rather than us reaching out to them,” Landis said.
There had been a concern about affordable housing being built at the site because there is a concentration of affordable housing in the area, but PIRHL has been receptive to neighbor’s suggestions such as making the facade designs for the homes blend in with the community and introducing a home ownership option.
“All of those elements have made it a different kind of set-up than any other affordable housing,” Landis said.
As “workforce” housing, the development’s target market is families in which the primary wage earner is making $12 to $20 per hour. Rent at the development will range from about $550 to $900 per month, not including utilities.
There are income requirements attached to the housing in that the families must earn less than 60 percent of the area’s median income — roughly $40,000 — to qualify. Because the income qualification process carries an expiration date, Bier said applications for the housing will not be available until late 2017 or possibly early 2018.
“It’s great if we have a long waiting list in advance,” he said.
Elements have also been designed to better handle stormwater than previous uses of the site with the goal of reduced total volume, reduced peak rate and improved water quality. Changing the site from an impervious surface to town homes with large grassy areas essentially meets the minimum requirements for stormwater management, but the developer has also implemented retention grading to allow stormwater to slowly infiltrate the soil, which will result in a large reduction in the rate at which water runs off the site, Doty said.
Wellheads visible in portions of the site are the remaining signs of the measuring and testing of groundwater on the site that was required by law prior to development. Doty said there had initially been some concern in that area in terms of potential contamination, but the tests found nothing.
“The bottom line is there’s no contamination or concerns for contamination on the site,” Doty said.
The development will also bring needed open space to the northwest quadrant, which has two small parks among the rows of homes that were built up around Carlisle Tire & Wheel during its productive years.
“As urban centers grow and develop, this used to be the edge of town. At one time, it probably made sense for a factory to be out here,” Doty said.
The areawide study included a third former industrial site that has not seen as much activity as its two counterparts.
When the Carlisle Urban Redevelopment Plan was unveiled, the project team envisioned the former Tyco Electronics facility as the North Hanover Gateway. One scenario called for the adaptive reuse of the existing building while another would have office and mixed retail use on the site. Development would also place an emphasis on changing the look of North Hanover Street between the Army War College and the traffic light where Hanover, East and Clay streets come together.
The site is still being marketed by CBRE Inc. Like the other two sites, the Hamilton Street site is zoned as an urban mixed-use district.
Assistant Borough Manager Susan Armstrong said the site is still considered part of the borough’s overall development plan.
“The borough looks forward to an opportunity to potentially partner and work with a future buyer/developer when the opportunity presents itself,” she said.
Even with a potential project at the Tyco site still off in the future, residents of the area are looking forward to the changes to what have been empty factories or vacant lots for almost a decade and the potential the projects have to bring additional improvements to the surrounding area.
Landis said people in the community around the sites would like to see “a proper grocery” included in one of those lots as an alternative to convenience stores for those who do not have a car. The nearest grocery store to the northwest quadrant of town is Karns on Spring Road — about a mile and a half away from the center of the quadrant.
“We’re pretty hopeful and positive about what’s happening in the neighborhood right now,” Landis said.