Bill Miller finally has the answer to the question he’s heard over and over again for a number of years now. It's the question about when something would be done at the former Masland/IAC site along Carlisle Springs Road in the borough.
“Guess what? Today’s the day. It is happening,” Miller said at Tuesday afternoon’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new Homewood Suites by Hilton.
The event featured remarks from the agencies that have worked together to bring the redevelopment plan to life. In addition to Miller, speakers included Carlisle Borough Councilwoman Robin Guido; Michelle Crowley, president and CEO of the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce; Jamie Keener, CEO of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp.; Hemal Shah, chief financial officer of Simraj Hospitality Management; and Bill Morgan, construction manager for the project.
Transportation and construction projects were the focus of the annual State of Carlisle breakfast held by the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerc…
The hotel is the first structure to break ground at the former industrial site. The 2008 closure of IAC dealt the community a significant blow with the loss of 350 jobs, said Perry Heath, a former member of the Carlisle Borough Council who hosted the ceremony.
“Suddenly we had a million square feet of buildings and an additional 20-some odd acres of parking space that suddenly became available. So 2008 was either a death knell or the creation of a new opportunity,” he said.
It became the latter.
Carlisle Events stepped in to purchase the nearly 50-acre site to secure its main business, the car shows held throughout the summer at the nearby fairgrounds. Fifty percent of the parking for the car shows is in the lot across Carlisle Springs Road from the site of the future hotel, Miller said.
Changes to key roads on the north end of Carlisle could begin as early as next month with construction continuing for three years.
“Without it, we would have been in trouble. We wouldn’t have been able to have the events and we would have had to move,” Miller said.
Miller said people “scared us to death” about the property and its potential environmental problems. Carlisle Events, however, jumped in with both feet, eventually finding that the problems were not as bad as they anticipated. Only a tiny part that will be under a parking lot didn’t meet residential standards, Miller said.
The environmental studies and subsequent remediation were part of years of demolition, part of which followed the 2012 fire that destroyed the former factory buildings. Planning included the creation of the Carlisle Urban Redevelopment Plan for the entire northwest quadrant, which saw the closing of three factories within months of each other, as well as stormwater management and traffic studies, Heath said.
Homewood Suites was the first to commit to building at the property with an agreement signed in December 2015.
“We have believed in the project from the beginning. We’re very excited about bringing Hilton to this area,” Shah said. Simraj Hospitality Management will operate the hotel.
The 95-room hotel will feature apartment-style living with the benefits of being a hotel guest. Homewood Suites offers a full kitchen and separate living spaces designed to let guests live, work and relax. The hotel will also feature an indoor pool, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour fitness center.
Shah said the hotel should be completed in mid-2020.
“I know it’s a good market. It’s going to do amazing,” he said.
Miller said he was excited about Homewood Suites coming in as part of the development, promising that it would have “instant bookings all the time” during events because it will allow people to have a place to stay within walking distance of the car show.
“The War College fills it in the winter time, and we fill it in the summer time so we’re certainly excited that it’s going to be here,” Miller said.
In addition to the hotel, Marcello’s Ristorante, which has a location near Calvary Road in Carlisle, will build a restaurant across the future A Street extension from the hotel, and is expected to open about a month or so before the hotel.
These projects are the beginning of an overall vision for the site that include commercial, retail and residential space.
“This spot was and its surrounding footprint served as an economic and industrial cornerstone for Carlisle. Now, after 10 years of dormancy, we’re excited to take the next step and return this property to its former glory and once again making it a centerpiece for those who are not only part of this community, but visit it, too,” Miller said.