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Decade of Change: Carlisle’s abandoned industrial sites become symbols of hope
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Decade of Change

Decade of Change: Carlisle’s abandoned industrial sites become symbols of hope

From the Decade of Change: Key changes of the past 10 years in Cumberland County series
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As the calendar turned to 2010, Carlisle’s industrial sector was becoming a symbol of the nation’s economic decline.

First, International Automotive Components announced in October 2008 it was going to close its plant on Carlisle Springs Road, nearly 90 years after it opened as the C.H. Masland & Sons carpet factory. Then, in January 2009, Tyco Electronics said it would close its Hamilton Street plant by March. Finally, in July 2009, Carlisle Tire & Wheel declared the pending closure of its facility on North College Street.

“There was a tremendous amount of concern, first of all for the employees that were losing their jobs and secondly for the loss of the tax base,” former borough council president Perry Heath said.

Over the next few years, a casual observer might have seen Carlisle’s abandoned industrial sites as evidence of a town in decline. Beneath the surface, however, people were working hard to ensure those once-proud properties would rise again.

As the 21st century’s third decade begins, they’ve now become a symbol of Carlisle’s hope and resilience.

‘Pretty stark choices’

After the closures, Carlisle faced what Heath called “pretty stark choices.”

“We could either let these buildings get boarded up and become abandoned, blighted properties, or we could find some way to take advantage of them,” he said. “We elected to take the high road and create as many public-private partnerships as we could to take advantage of those sites.”

One of the first ideas was to turn the approximately 1 million square feet of buildings at the Masland site into a large expo center that could rival the Farm Show building in Harrisburg, he said. That proved economically unfeasible.

In the years that followed, the buildings underwent hazardous mitigation plans, environmental remediation and planning to alleviate traffic concerns. Borough officials obtained grants to improve the properties and worked to sell them to developers.

The road to improvement wasn’t always smooth. Carlisle Auto Industries, a sister company of Carlisle Events, purchased and began remediating the Masland/IAC property, but in 2012, a four-alarm fire destroyed former factory buildings on the property.

By 2019, however, all three properties were well on their way to hosting retail stores and residences.

“I continue to be amazed and appreciative of all the players that came to the table and took the risk to move some of these plans forward,” Heath said.

Meanwhile, Carlisle didn’t experience the same degree of economic depression many towns face when they lose major employers, he said, thanks to Cumberland County’s fast growth and increasing job opportunities.

What’s happening now

The IAC/Masland site is tapped for several businesses and housing complexes. The first building to begin construction was a planned Homewood Suites by Hilton hotel, which broke ground in June and remains under construction. Marcello’s Ristorante is also expected to open a restaurant there.

Other planned projects at the site include retail and office properties and a condo community for car enthusiasts called Concours at Carlisle.

In 2020, there is expected to be construction near the site to enhance the roads in the area, including roundabouts at the North Hanover, East and West Penn streets and Fairground Avenue intersection and the B Street and College Street intersection.

At the nearby Carlisle Tire & Wheel property, Cleveland-based developer PIRHL began construction this summer on a 42-unit affordable housing apartment building called the Flats at Factory Square. Construction is slated for completion by summer 2020.

A PIRHL representative said this summer that it also plans to bring a grocery store to the property.

The Tyco Electronics site was the last of the three to be torn down, with demolition work beginning in March 2019.

However, work is progressing quickly, according to Jamie Keener, CEO of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp., whose subsidiary Real Estate Collaborative purchased the property in 2018. The demolition work is now completed, and Real Estate Collaborative is negotiating with a user for that site.

The collaborative anticipates construction will begin “within a few months” with a user in place, Keener said.

Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.

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