After 6 years, finally, a groundbreaking at the workforce housing development


Developer Tim Harrison and landowner John Robinson have been working six years for this date.

They joined government dignitaries Thursday for a groundbreaking at The Mill at Easton. It’s a working-class housing development going in at the site of the former Stewart Silk Mill at 620 Coal St. in Easton.

“Projects like this don’t happen overnight, but when they happen the community benefits,” Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said.

Robinson formerly ran Black Diamond Enterprises out of the site. He made stainless-steel tabletops, sinks and accessories for the food service industry, including McDonald’s.

After he closed the business, he was looking for a partner to develop the property. Harrison said Robinson wanted nothing to do with him at first, but his persistence paid off.

Together they secured funding for an expensive environmental cleanup and demolition. Plans to save two small buildings were foiled after a fire torched the site in 2016. They also fought for and eventually secured economic development funds.

The development will provide 55 homes for working-class people who otherwise couldn’t afford homes. Affordable housing is a priority for Panto.

“I feel so grateful to have reached this point,” Harrison said. “It’s almost overwhelming.”

He expects work to start within a month on the $15 million to $20 million project. Work should wrap up in about a year.

The Mill at Easton

Architectural rendering for The Mill at Easton, a workforce housing development at 620 Coal St.Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com

The Mill at Easton includes two three-story buildings with 11 one-bedroom, 30 two-bedroom and 14 three-bedroom units. Each home will include energy efficient appliances, central air conditioning, a pantry, a washer and a dryer. One building will have a community room with a kitchenette.

The property will feature social and community support services provided by The Easton Area Neighborhood Center, Fulton Bank, Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley and Project of Easton.

Since the project is financed in part through tax credits, the homes must be rented to individuals who earn between 30 and 80 percent of the neighborhood’s average median income.

Families who move to the development will be able to take advantage of the brand new Cheston Elementary School across Coal Street.

Harrison brought in PIRHL, or Partners in Residential Housing Leadership of Cleveland, Ohio, to help with the project. The organization specializes in Brownfield development and affordable housing, according to PIRHL Vice President Lara Schwager.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency awarded the project 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which generated $12.2 million in private equity, according to a news release. PHFA also provided $1 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement program. The project also received a $2 million Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and more than $1 million in assessment and remediation funds from the PA Industrial Site Reuse Program.

Tim Harrison is married to Caroline Harrison, the CEO of Advance Local. Advance Local is the parent company for lehighvalleylive.com.

The Mill at Easton

Landscape plan for The Mill at Easton, a workforce housing development at 620 Coal St.Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com

John Wood Stewart built the silk mill in 1902 to produce high-end textiles and supplement his other mills in New Jersey. A piece of Stewart silk is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He sold the mill in 1930. The new owner switched to manufacturing nylon for World War II. The mill closed in 1965. It was among the last in the Lehigh Valley to operate.

Source: Tim Harrison.

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Rudy Miller may be reached at rmiller@lehighvalleylive.com. If there’s anything about this story that needs attention, please email him. Follow him on Twitter @RudyMillerLV. Find Easton area news on Facebook.





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