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Lewistown Housing Project Moves Ahead
June 27, 2012
Every construction project offers unique challenges and Mann Edge Terrace, the new apartment building for the elderly in Lewistown, is no different. In spite of comprehensive planning, testing, and budgeting, issues developed once construction was underway. Everything has been resolved, however, and the 31-unit building at Dorcas and South Water Streets is expected to welcome its first tenants early next year.
As the home of the former Mann Edge Tool Company, the property was known to be a “brownfields” site. The SEDA-COG Housing Development Corporation (HDC), developers of the project, worked closely with the Mifflin County Industrial Development Corporation (MCIDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ensure the site’s environmental safety. Test borings of the soil were taken and water samples were tested from the several wells that were dug. Permits were granted and ground was broken last November.
MCIDC has been pursuing the project for several years as a means of reusing the industrial site and creating a significant addition to downtown Lewistown.
Soon after excavation on the site began, large slabs of concrete rubble were found, unrelated to the old Tool Company. It appeared to be pieces of an old bridge, with twisted remnants of rebar winding in and around them. As contractors took the concrete away to be disposed of properly, they removed much of an earthen bank, revealing part of the old factory that had stood on the site. It had to be removed, and clean fill was brought in to level the site.
Disposal costs were about $80,000; new clean fill cost around $24,000. In all, there have been approximately $240,000 in unbudgeted costs, significantly more than the project’s contingency fund.
The HDC has also taken steps to save money on the project, particularly in the matter of a sewer line in poor condition, which ran under the site. After reconfiguring the building’s design, there was no need to remove the line, but its condition did have to be addressed. The matter was resolved, with Lewistown Borough Council’s cooperation, through the use of “slip line” technology, i.e., essentially fortifying the line from inside the sewer pipe.
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has come forward with $170,000 in additional funds for the Lewistown project, recognizing both the difficulties inherent in a brownfields site, and the HDC’s efforts to control costs while resolving environmental concerns. It was PHFA’s approval of two zero-interest loans, plus federal tax credits last July that originally allowed Mann Edge Terrace to move forward.
The Mifflin County Commissioners, which had put $100,000 toward the project, is considering an additional contribution, and the contractor and HDC continue to seek means of reducing costs.
Would the HDC ever consider another brownfields site for a housing project? “Sure,” says Michael Fisher, who directs SEDA-COG's Housing activities, “We’ve learned quite a bit through this endeavor. We want to put that knowledge to good use.”