Kutztown Silk Mill District redevelopment plan proposes to convert vacant buildings into residential apartment complexes.
The Kutztown Borough Council meeting on April 15 was highlighted by a proposed land development plan from College Town Communities, Muhlenburg Greene Architects (MGA) and Bogia Engineering.
Representatives introduced the Silk Mill District, a planned redevelopment of the Kutztown Silk Mill and other surrounding areas on Willow Street.
The mill is just one of several buildings on Willow Street that is currently vacant. College Town’s project would see these buildings converted into residential apartment complexes over a tentative 18-month construction phase. A small café and coffee shop building was also presented in conceptual renderings.
“[The Silk Mill District] would be at the other end of town and would juxtapose the university,” said College Town representative, Matt Genesio. “We’ve been looking for something like this to do in Kutztown for over a decade.”
According to Genesio, the apartments would not be used exclusively for student housing purposes like other similar complexes in the area.
“These are going to be your average-Joe apartments, not student housing,” said Genesio. “We hope to open [the apartments] to all demographics.”
The district’s main purpose would be to activate an otherwise under-utilized part of the town’s borough.
“A town like Kutztown is the quintessential post-industrial small town,” said MGA associate Michael Nolan. “You have the university and a fantastic Main Street with a nice warm feeling to it, but as you get down to the West Main area, it kind of starts to peter out. It is a really good spot to improve upon.”
Nolan explained that the original brick façade and 12 to 13 foot interior ceiling heights of the Silk Mill building would be left intact during construction. Town heritage would be further referenced through the use of hex sign designs and a vintage industrial undertone.
“We want to maintain the overall fabric of [the silk mill area,]” said Nolan. “We figured that having some pulls to the community would be a nice touch.”
Project representatives stressed the importance of board support for the project.
“It was a unique twist of fate that these properties became available to us in such a densely populated, but underused part of town,” said College Town representative Tim Sipe. “Clearly there is a lot of work and development to be done, but hopefully we can gain the support of the borough on this project.”
“A development of this size can’t happen without the approval of the council,” said Genesio. “We are just really excited about the possibility of this thing coming together. This could be a huge asset to a town like Kutztown.”
The board did not comment at the time of the proposal. The project remains a pending board discussion point.