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The high-tech Innovation District planned for York City's Northwest Triangle is expected to be three times larger than initially planned, thanks to the area being a federally designated opportunity zone.

The city's Redevelopment Authority Board on Wednesday approved the final $169 million project that's intended to be home to robotic device development, design workshops and office spaces for labs.

"Since the federal opportunity zones announcement, interest in the triangle has grown exponentially," said John McElligott, CEO of York Exponential Development, the developer for the project. "A lot of outside funders are looking at York, specifically opportunity zones. All of this happening at one time has created the ability do something of this magnitude."

More: York City to receive $6 million for innovation district

More: Innovation district plans move forward in York City's Northwest Triangle

McElligott announced the plans for the Innovation District, dubbed the "York Plan 2.0," in 2017 in honor of the country's first ordnance contract for World War II that helped solidify the city as a global manufacturing hub.

Two years ago, the three-phase project was advertised as 240,000 square feet. Now, it's estimated to be 763,486 square feet and could facilitate joint technological developments in industries such as energy, defense, 5G infrastructure and cyber security.

The planned development is located on a vacant parcel of land along Codorus Creek, a few blocks west of the intersection of North George  and Philadelphia streets.  

Designated opportunity zones are low-income census tracts nominated by state governors and certified by U.S. Department of Treasury. Opportunity zones offer tax incentives for those who choose to invest in the distressed communities. They also receive priority consideration for grants.

There are five such zones in the city. The entire project is located in an area that was classified as an opportunity zone in 2018. 

“This is our launch into the 21st century," said York City Mayor Michael Helfrich. "Both architecturally and industrially, it is time for us to take a leadership role in the newest industrial revolution. It’s time for us to combine our well-known historical mechanical skills with the technology of the future."

Permitting and contracting for the project are expected to begin later this year, and construction on the first phase of the project will begin in 2020.

There are already a number of investors lined up, McElligott said. They're expected to be announced within the next month.

Gov. Tom Wolf last year announced a $6 million state grant for the project. The developer plans to initially match that grant through opportunity zone investments and ideally fund most, if not all, of the project through similar investments.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD. 

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