June 27, 2008

Woolworth Site Has Setback: A Developer Decided the Needed Cleanup Work Was Too Costly.

By Angie Mason, York Daily Record, Pa.

Jun. 27--A developer has passed on the chance to redevelop the former Woolworth building in downtown York.

The building has had five "suitors" in the past few years, said Matt Jackson, the city's Redevelopment Authority coordinator and economic development director.

Ideas for filling the empty building at 44-50 W. Market St. have included an upscale grocery store, living space and offices, but none have worked out.

Most recently, David Yohn and Yohn Property Management proposed a fitness center and condos for the site. Yohn was the only developer who studied the building enough to get a firm grasp on the environmental issues, Jackson said.

When Yohn learned how much it would cost to clean contaminants such as asbestos from the building, he decided it would be too expensive to put a fitness center there, Jackson said.

The asbestos is throughout the building in pipes and adhesive on tile flooring, but how much of it needs to be removed depends on what the building is used for, said Kevin Schreiber, marketing and economic development coordinator.

Jackson said it could cost between $100,000 and $150,000 to clean up the building. The Redevelopment Authority will try to find grants to pay for it, he said. Public agencies are typically preferred applicants for such grants, he said.

Jackson believes that, if the environmental work is finished, the building will be more attractive to developers.

"It's still a prominent building in the heart of our downtown," he

said, adding that it's also in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, so its owners would get tax breaks.

Older structures always have environmental issues associated with them, Jackson said, listing the now-demolished Graybill building and Keystone Color Works building as examples. The Northwest Triangle land required environmental cleanup as well.

"Typically these projects . . . don't work competitively when you're comparing urban structures to virgin farmland in the suburbs," Jackson said.

David Yohn could not be reached for comment.

Jackson said he plans to meet with state Department of Environmental Protection officials to talk about grant opportunities.


Last time: Developer Yohn Property Management proposed a fitness center for the old Woolworth building on West Market Street in York.

The latest: David Yohn determined its environmental cleanup would be too costly to do the project, according to a city official.

What's next: The Redevelopment Authority will try to obtain grant money to clean the property.


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