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Funding is confirmed for
Lykens project
Story by Duane Good, Editor



The former POS of A Lodge building (left) and Lykens Hotel are fixtures of the downtown Lykens square. (Sentinel file photo)

Funding has been secured for the future purchase renovation of the former Lykens Hotel and POS of A buildings located downtown on the borough’s square.

The Lykens Community Development Corporation, owner of both properties, and Rochester, N.Y.-based Home Leasing LLC, which was on board for the purchase and upgrade, were informed May 14 that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency has approved a request for financing to underwrite the conversion of the two buildings into modern apartments, offices and retail space.

Specific dollar amounts were not available as of press time May 18. Work reportedly is scheduled to begin this summer.

The project had the support of the Dauphin County Commissioners, the county’s Redevelopment Authority (which is working in partnership with Home Leasing) and U.S. Rep Lou Barletta, along with Lykens Borough Council, state Rep. Mike Tobash and Mid Penn Bank.

‘‘Lykens Community Development is excited at the news;  although prior funding applications didn’t yield funding,  the group believed it was only a matter of time, said Kevin Jury, the corporation’s current president.

‘‘We are thrilled that this project will now move forward, with construction beginning this summer,’’ said Nelson Leenhouts, Home Leasing’s chairman and CEO. ‘‘We greatly appreciate the support that we have received from so many, and especially Don Sauve and the Lykens Chamber of Commerce, for their patience and selfless dedication.

‘‘More information concerning costs and financing will be available in a few weeks,’’ he said.

‘‘We really appreciate Home Leasing staying committed to the project for all these years,’’ said George Connor, deputy director of the county Department of Community and Economic Development.

‘‘We can now move forward with this project and start to see some economic development (in the Lykens area). This project will be the foundation for development in the future for Lykens and the surrounding communities,’’ Connor added.

Barletta, who had written to the PHFA urging support for the project, submitted this response.

“The old Lykens Hotel can once again be a catalyst for the downtown area.  As a former mayor, I know how important a project like this can be for the life of a small town.  Saving history is important, and so is economic development. 

‘‘I am very pleased to see that our efforts have helped this project move forward for the good of the entire region. This has been a labor of love for the Dauphin County Commissioners, all local elected officials who have been involved, and the people of Lykens who have stood behind this project.  I congratulate them on their success and wish them luck as they move forward.”

Background. Once completed, there will be 28 apartment units – described as ‘‘affordable’’ – available between the two buildings, in addition to the office and retail space.

Jury previously told the Sentinel that the intent is to preserve as much of the two buildings’ facades and specific interior touches as much as possible.

‘‘We’re hoping the hotel’s tile floors can be retained and that the lobby can be restored to give people a feeling as to what it was,’’ he said in an article published in the March 17 issue. (The roof was replaced in 2006.)

The hotel has been unoccupied since the 1980s. More recently, the former Patriotic Order Sons of America Lodge building once housed one of the area’s two Deibler’s Drug Store branches.

The former Lykens Public School building on Second Street was part of the project, but has been taken out, Jury confirmed.

‘‘It was not cost-effective to keep it in,’’ Jury said in March.

Home Leasing has dubbed the endeavor the Union House Project, named after a hotel that preceded the former Lykens Hotel at the same site.

Outline of project presented. Jury provided the Sentinel with a copy of a project outline developed by Home Leasing, LLC in partnership with the Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority.

‘‘This project is the number one community revitalization priority for the Borough and will have dramatic impact on the community. The adaptive reuse of the buildings into apartments will help create a vibrant, attractive community, reduce blight, and follow smart growth principles,’’ the outline stated.

‘‘The restoration of these important historic structures will serve as a catalyst to promote neighborhood stabilization and encourage further investment in the community. Union House Apartments will provide quality, affordable housing for local families who work at businesses within the community.

‘‘This project will promote growth and stability within the community by creating jobs, increasing the tax base, reducing blight and creating high-quality safe and affordable housing for residents of the Borough and Dauphin County,’’ the outline stated.

‘‘The collaborative efforts of the community government and local organizations serve as a model for maximizing the leverage of private and public investment in a community with little resources.

‘‘Of the total development costs, the County committed $500,000,’’ the letter continued. ‘‘Equity raised from low income housing tax credits coupled with Federal Historic Tax Credits will help maximize leveraging of resources.  The Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh has awarded $250,000 to the project. Five Section 8 Project Based Vouchers are committed to assure affordability to those with the most need. The borough has provided (tax) and sewer and water abatement.

‘‘Union House Apartments will be designated for general occupancy by households with incomes at or below 20 percent, 50 percent or 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). The Lykens community has limited affordable housing production and a high owner-occupied market, leaving few options for renters.  The project specific capture rates are approximately three percent and overall market capture rate of evidencing a strong need for affordable housing.

‘‘The two buildings will include studios, one and two bedroom apartments. Unit amenities will include apartments with open floor plans, modern kitchen designs with Energy-Star appliances and central air conditioning,’’ the outline stated. ‘‘There will be an elevator in the Lykens Hotel and increased accessibility at each building. There will be on-site leasing, supportive service and maintenance offices, community room with kitchenette, a computer lab, onsite laundry facilities on and off-street parking and improved facade along Main Street. 

‘‘National Parks Service standards will be followed for the historic adaptive reuse,’’ the letter continued.   ‘‘Union House Apartments is nearby critical services. Supportive services will be provided by the Upper Dauphin County Human Services Center in concert with the resident service coordinator on staff. 

‘‘Within walking distance of Union House Apartments there are restaurants, a grocery store, a community center, a day care facility, public parks, a library, basic health care, a pharmacy, employment opportunities, a gas station and convenience store,’’ the letter also stated.

‘‘Union House Apartments project contributes to neighborhood improvement and encourages further investment within the community in concert with other planned improvements,’’ the letter stated. ‘‘This project will complement the recently completed Lykens Valley Rail-Trail, the proposed Lykens Public Improvement Project, the Lykens and Wiconisco Field Restoration project and the $1.2 million Rattling Creek stabilization project.’’

 




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