By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — A report given to the Danville Business Alliance has found that converting empty upper floors along Mill Street to residences would be both financially feasible and an economic boon.
“Assuming it happens, it will create a substantial investment in the buildings downtown, their upgrade and improvement,” said Jim Wilson, president of the Danville Business Alliance. “The buildings will be populated by tenants who provide additional foot traffic and disposable income” to the downtown area and existing Danville businesses.
The study noted that 27 vacant upper floors of Mill Street buildings, which total about 50,000 square feet, can be turned into between 30 and 40 high-end dwelling units, said Wilson.
Existing buildings were examined as well as underdeveloped parcels for new mixed-use commercial/residential construction.
The 27 vacant upper floors were identified by Penn State in 2011 in a collaborative project with the DBA.
The feasibility study cost approximately $31,000, with financial support given by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Greater Danville Area Industrial Development Corporation, PPL, the Danville Moose Lodge, the Danville-West Mahoning Masonic Lodge, First Community Foundation Partnership and Geisinger Auxiliary. The Danville Business Alliance covered about 25 percent of the study’s cost, said Wilson.
The study helped point out a previously unidentified interest in residential space on Mill Street to the DBA, though they were not the first to come up with the idea.
“There are building owners downtown who already had this idea, even before the feasibility study began, and certainly before it was concluded,” said Wilson.
Danville is only now beginning to tap the unmet demand for downtown housing, and Wilson is confident property owners will see the value in offering such dwellings.
“I’m optimistic others will see it in the same light and agree that investing in high-end housing in downtown Danville, that they will see it as a very reasonable investment for a range of reasons,” he said.
The extent to which the DBA will be involved is a matter for the board of directors to address in the coming months.
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