Press "Enter" to skip to content

2 ARPA-funded commercial projects progressing in Reading

Two ARPA-funded commercial projects in Reading are progressing, developers say.

Council allocated $750,000 last year to city businessman Leopoldo Sanchez to complete financing for $9.5 million Super Natural Fresh Produce store and tortilla factory, 235 N. Fourth St.

Council also allocated $300,000 early this year to city developer Alan Shuman for roof repairs to the former Elks Home, 46 S. Fifth St., as part of a $8.2 million renovation project.

The restoration of the former Trexler Mansion and Elks Club at Fifth and Franklin streets continues by the Shuman Development Corp. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
The restoration of the former Trexler Mansion and Elks Home at Fifth and Franklin streets continues by the Shuman Development Corp. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

At council’s request, the developers provided updates at a recent committee of the whole meeting.

“If you look at the site, you’ll wonder what’s been going on over the last 12 months because it has not changed in that period,” James E. Buerger, vice president of housing and real estate lending for Community First, said of the grocery project. “But I can assure you there’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.”

The project is primarily funded by private investment and loans from the Greater Berks Development Fund and the nonprofit funding groups Community First Fund and Low-Income Investment Fund.

Announced in 2018, construction failed to get off the ground largely due to the pandemic, developers said, noting issues with labor and material shortages and escalating costs.

Progress on the $9.5 million grocery resumed in spring 2022 but quickly came to a second standstill, which was blamed on inflation and a funding shortfall of $1.5 million.

The shortfall prompted the city and county to each allocate $750,000 in ARPA funds.

As late as June, a major piece of the equipment financing was still missing, Buerger said, and bids could not be advertised until enough funds were secured to lock in costs for electrical and mechanical equipment.

Sanchez met with representatives of Mayor Eddie Moran’s office, and they agreed to release $682,500 of the allocated funds, Beurger said.

Council President Donna Reed asked why council was not consulted on the partial release of funds, which was not in accordance with the grant agreement.

Buerger said he did not know but noted that if the funds had not been released, costs likely would have continued to increase.

“More importantly,” he said, “the equipment that we ordered almost two months ago would only now be being ordered.”

Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz agreed that council should have been consulted.

“The community asks us questions,” she said, “and if we don’t have the appropriate answers because we haven’t been updated, then we’re not sure where to go with it,”

Jamar Kelly, deputy city managing director and finance director, said the information was included in reports given to council.

Former Elks Home

Council was updated on the $8.2 million renovation of the former Elks Home, also known as the Trexler mansion.

Council allocated $300,000 to Shuman for roof repairs to the building.

Shuman said 50% of the allocated funding has been released.

Part of the project total includes the cost to install a $40,000 gas line, which will also serve the nearby Reading Public Library, he noted.

“We are on schedule with the plans to have the project completed next summer,” he said.

Because of the widespread interest in the property, Shuman said, he posts ongoing photos and updates on social media.

Community interest

Councilman O. Christopher Miller said both properties are in District 6, which he represents, and he is pleased that the formerly vacant and blighted buildings are being rehabilitated.

Not only council members are watching for progress, he noted.

“Neighbors and the people in the city notice, too,” Miller said, “and they notice when things aren’t happening and properties are going in decline.”

When he received questions about the Trexler mansion from residents, he could answer them based on Shuman’s social media updates.

But with Super Natural & Fresh, Miller said: “We really didn’t hear anything. We didn’t see anything.”

City residents care about what is happening and follow the projects, he said, especially when there is public funding involved.

“People do follow what happens with the funding,” Miller said. “It’s an investment in their city.”

Source: Berkshire mont

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: