The future of downtown Lititz

By on November 29, 2017
Sixty percent of the former Wilbur Chocolate factory will be renovated into a 74-room boutique hotel with a courtyard. The portions of the iconic industrial site that will be saved were built in 1900 and 1923. Image courtesy of RLPS Architects

Sixty percent of the former Wilbur Chocolate factory will be renovated into a 74-room boutique hotel with a courtyard. The portions of the iconic industrial site that will be saved were built in 1900 and 1923. Image courtesy of RLPS Architects

Lititz Borough Council got an updated view of plans to transform the now-vacated Wilbur Chocolate factory into a mixed-use redevelopment project with shops, a hotel, condominiums, a restaurant and apartments.

The preliminary and final land development plan was approved during Tuesday night’s council meeting, along with dozens of conditions relating to the project, including stormwater management, traffic impact studies, tree buffering, flood plain management, curbing, streets and railway right-of-way.

“We can appreciate how difficult these projects are,” said council president Karen Weibel. “I commend Oak Tree Development Group and your team for a job well done.”

Alex Piehl of RGS Associates gave an overview of the project, which was first unveiled in May. Since then, Oak Tree has been working closely with borough officials to fine-tune the project in keeping with the local comprehensive plan.

Piehl reported that the project will renovate the former Wilbur Chocolate building into retail space with shops and a restaurant. There will be a 74-room boutique hotel with a courtyard and drive up area. The building will also house 26 luxury condominiums.

Plans also call for apartments along the railroad tracks near Lititz Springs Park.

Just to the rear and north, there will be an apartment building with 32 apartments for 55+ residents. Two more apartment buildings will be market rate and non-age-restricted. One will have 75 units and the other will have 80 units. There will be a one-tiered parking deck to the rear of the Wilbur building.

Craig Kimmel of RLPS Architects provided the first look at the actual structures that are being planned. The architectural renderings showed the shops along North Broad Street, where the existing red Wilbur Chocolate Co. banner can be seen along the historic brick building. Another view showed the hotel entrance with a large Wilbur-Suchard statue to the left. There were also renderings of the apartment buildings along the railroad tracks and Lititz Springs Park.

In August, council approved zoning changes that would allow for a mixed-use Downtown Overlay District. This rezoning allows for a variety of uses in the downtown area that make it possible for properties to be developed beyond commercial or industrial uses, such as the Wilbur factory.

Council also approved Oak Tree’s plan to demolish several additional structures, removing 40 percent of the 180,000-square-foot factory building, while keeping 60 percent and the oldest portions of the factory. The three oldest T-shape portions of the building, originally constructed in 1900 and 1923, are being preserved.

“It looks like you are on the right road with this project, and we appreciate that you are putting a lot on the line to make this a success,” Weibel said.

Taxes

Council agreed to advertise an ordinance establishing the real estate tax rate for 2018. The revenue neutral rate is 1.87 mills and is being considered for an increase to 2 mills to offset the elimination of the per capita and occupational taxes. This is within the 10 percent increase permitted by law.

Lititz’s revenue neutral rate of 1.87 mills is expected to provide $1,260,260 in revenue. With the recommended increase to 2 mills, revenue would be 1,347,872. The increase would offset discontinuing the collection of per capita and occupation taxes.

2018 Budget

Council also agreed to advertise for the 2018 budget, which is available for public review at the borough office. The 2018 general fund budget totals $6,154,123 in expenses, with a net income of $5,570,606. The beginning balance is $2,501,056, for an end-of-year net balance of $1,917,539.

Christmas Lights

Weibel announced that the 48 holiday star lights are up in the borough, lining Main and Broad streets.

Council member Cory Van Brookhoven reported that the original lights were made in 1937, and this year marks the 80th season that the lights have decorated downtown. The old bulbs have been replaced with energy-efficient LED lights.

Weibel noted that the lights are showing their age, and some of them will need to be repaired after this holiday season. The borough might look into an adopt-a-star program in which local businesses and residents fund the repairs to their adopted star. There is also consideration to construct more stars, so that they could be installed on more borough streets.

“The new stars would look exactly like the old stars,” Weibel assured. “We would never change them.”

Other Borough Business

  • Council approved a request from Joyce Gerhart of RGS Associates for the transfer of a strip of property from Lititz Reserve to Luthercare. The property is 10 feet to 15 feet wide in places and would allow for relocating utilities on the Luthercare property.
  • Council OK’d a request from St. Paul Lutheran Church on West Orange Street to hold an Epiphany Service with a burning of the altar greens. The greens will be burned by Boy Scouts in a safe area. This will not include any Christmas trees or other greens, only those used in the church.

Laura Knowles is a freelance reporter who covers the Lititz Borough Council beat for the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

 

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