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Easton silk mill redevelopment inches closer

By Kevin Lechiski, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 17 2012 11:14:23 PM CDT
Silk Mill

Easton officials are looking to transform the former Simon Silk Mill site into a mixed-used arts village.

EASTON, Pa. -

After nearly a decade of planning, the first phase of an ambitious project to redevelop the former Simon Silk Mill property into an arts village appears to finally be on the verge of coming to fruition.

The Easton Redevelopment Authority Wednesday evening approved a $200,000 contract with the VM Development Group for construction management of environmental remediation and infrastructure work associated with the first phase of redeveloping the 15-acre site at North 13th Street and Bushkill Drive.

The 50,000 square-feet first phase will be comprised of apartments with specific work amenities for artists, according to Easton Redevelopment Authority Chairman Richard McAteer. Subsequent phases are expected to include a community arts center, retail stores, restaurants, boutique hotel and other uses. Total redevelopment is expected to comprise 325,000 square feet.

If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the redevelopment project could be ready for occupancy as early as 2014, according McAteer.

“This is an exciting time,” McAteer said. “We’ve been at this for seven years. It’s been a long time coming.”

McAteer describes the redevelopment project as “an arts village for the creative industries where residents can live and work 24 hours a day.” The project has similarities to the ArtsQuest complex in Bethlehem.

The property, acquired by the Easton Redevelopment Authority in 2006, was first developed as a silk mill in 1883. Before the textile industry began its decline in the latter half of the 20th century, the site grew to include more than 20 industrial buildings.

McAteer said the goal is to redevelop, within its existing historic framework, 97 percent of the property.

The total redevelopment vision for the property, as posted on the Greater Easton Development Partnership website, is as follows:

-- A community arts center possibly involving gallery space, working artist studios, small live performance venues, classrooms and community meeting rooms, shared production facilities (kilns, pottery wheels, metal-working facilities, etc.), artist demonstration stages, an art film theatre, etc.

-- An artist live-work facility providing affordable joint residential/studio space for qualified artists and their families.

-- A boutique hotel and conference center providing overnight accommodations for visitors.

-- A mix of market-rate retail, commercial, office, restaurants, and production facilities catering to the creative industries.

The appointed re-developer, the VM Development Group, is currently completing the redevelopment of the former Pomeroy building on the 300 block Northampton Street.

The VM Group, on its website, said the former silk mill site will become “a tour de force in the museum exhibition and community arts education forum.”