Three contenders for the vacant Knight-Celotex site

January 22, 2018


SUNBURY — Northumberland County Planning and Economic Development Director Donald Alexander's goal for 2018 is to establish some "solid prospects" for the former Knight-Celotex property. 
Alexander said the county is entertaining three strong contenders for the county-owned site: a warehouse and distribution center, professional services and a production company. The county worked with Philadelphia-based Martin Architectural Group PC, using input from Sunbury Revitalization Inc. (SRI) and Sunbury Redevelopment Authority (RDA) to develop a final conceptual plan for the 22-acre site. 
"As a conceptual plan, it's very malleable and fluid," Alexander said. "It's subject to change as opportunities develop. The site is ripe with location and zoning with some options. We're not closing the door on any opportunities at this point." 
After a fire heavily damaged the county prison on N. Second Street in January 2015, the previous board of county commissioners purchased the former Knight-Celotex property for $2 million from a subsidiary of Watsontown-based Moran Industries with the intention of developing it with the city into a new prison. The new commissioners abandoned that plan, but the county still owns the property. 
Approximately a year ago, a pool of 116 people responded to a county survey with the overwhelming response being some sort of retail and hospitality. The conceptual plan developed by Martin calls for .75 of an acre for a restaurant, .73 of an acre for retail, 1.79 acres for hotel/restaurant, 3.1 acres for retail, .46 of an acre for single family homes, 3.78 acres for retail/residential mixed building, 2.15 acres for townhouse and a combined 1.2 acres for three areas of green space. It also has space for a road. 
The site cannot accommodate full-time residential buildings on the ground level due to environmental impact of a low soil contaminant, but it can be on the second floor of a building, Alexander said. 
First come, first serve 
Two of the three contenders can fit onto portions of the property with the options of rearranging the plan, but the warehouse and distribution center, with 160 jobs, would take up the entirety of the site if that partnership works out, Alexander said. 
"We're fortunate that we do have options,, but we're working on a first come-first serve," he said. "If we have a viable project that is a tax and employment generator, we'll entertain just about everything." 
The plan is to continue advancing the prospects and to ramp up marketing to a wider audience, Alexander noted. 
Aimee Buehner, the chair of SRI's Business and Economic Development Committee, is looking forward to working with the county this year. 
"From every perspective, from a real estate perspective, and the committees of SRI and SRA, we would be happy to assist and pursue anything that would spur economic development," she said. 
All options must be examined, Buehner said. 
"There's no simple answer, I don't know what the answer is that suits the site," she said. "Something will work for that site and that community." 
11 new projects 
This year has mostly been a quiet one for businesses seeking expansion, both nationally and locally, mainly due to the uncertainty of a new presidential administration, Alexander said. 
However, in the last six weeks, between November and December, Alexander has been busy with 11 new projects. Three of those are existing local businesses looking to expand and seven are national or international businesses. 
The size of the projects range from a 5,000-square-foot facility to an 800,000-square-foot facility. The largest price tag is an estimated $100 million project. 
"I'm pretty optimistic," Alexander said of 2018. 

Credit: Daily Item