Former Danskin factory to be rezoned for affordable housing

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

The former Danskin factory on North State Street will be rezoned in the coming weeks to make way for affordable housing, according to city officials.

The York City Planning Commission will discuss the property at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, before making an official recommendation to the York City Council to rezone the property for residential use, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city’s acting director of community and economic development.

The former Danskin factory on State Street in York City, Thursday, June 8, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

On Tuesday, Aug. 15, the council will hold a special hearing before its regularly scheduled meeting to hear from residents about the plan to rezone two parcels at 200 and 300 N. State St.

The council will hear testimony from city residents starting at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the York City Council chambers at City Hall.

More:Redevelopment progress slow at former Danskin factory

After the special hearing, Councilman Henry Nixon will introduce a bill rezoning those two parcels from EC, an employment center, to UN-2, an urban residential neighborhood, according to the council's agenda.

Nixon said the rezoning is simply a formality to allow a housing complex to go up at the site, which "looks like a bombed-out area."

"We all realize that this property is sort of an unusual location to be zoned the way it is currently, when it's so close to a school," Nixon said.

Because of the council’s bylaws, a final vote on the bill cannot be taken until the council's next meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 5. 

Affordable housing: Philadelphia-based Pennrose Properties has entered into an agreement with the York City Redevelopment Authority, with the company planning to build a 56-unit affordable housing complex, Buffaloe said.

Before construction can begin, demolition must be completed. When the authority purchased the property two years ago, city officials estimated that only 30 percent had been demolished by the previous owners.

Buffaloe said Pennrose will take the lead for on-the-ground efforts at the site, while the authority will take care of the paperwork and try to facilitate a successful redevelopment project.

With multiple rounds of applications for state funding still on the horizon, Buffaloe cautioned that the project will take a substantial amount of time.

Removing an eyesore: For decades, the Danskin clothing factory was York City’s largest employer, but the manufacturer closed its doors in August 2009.

County records show 300 North State Street LP bought the property in 2010 for $260,000, but five years later — with the lot filled with rubble and abandoned — the Redevelopment Authority stepped in to take ownership of the site.

The authority purchased the property for $25,000 in July 2015, beginning the multi-year process of cleaning up and redeveloping the eyesore of a property.

Two years on from the purchase, the authority is beginning to make tangible progress at the site, which sits next to the Alexander D. Goode School.

More:EDITORIAL: The mess next door

After concerns were raised in February about potential toxic materials at the site, city and school district officials began conducting a series of environmental tests, including air and soil tests.

Initial tests in March by EHS Environmental Inc. found "no evidence of current or past air emissions from the property," but the company reported there are about 40,000 pounds of building debris and materials that likely contain asbestos at the site.

The Redevelopment Authority has installed several short-term fixes to block off the site from trespassers and prevent any debris from leaving the property.

The authority received funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development at the end of July to conduct additional environmental testing, which will form the basis for a remediation strategy at the site, Buffaloe said.

The authority will soon begin accepting bids from environmental testing companies, with the goal of starting cleanup efforts in early 2018, Buffaloe said.