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Factory futures

Parks, shops, housing best at Carlisle sites, businesses say

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International Automotive Components North America, or IAC, closed its factory on Carlisle Springs Road in 2008. Photo/Jim T. Ryan
International Automotive Components North America, or IAC, closed its factory on Carlisle Springs Road in 2008. Photo/Jim T. Ryan

Ask a few business owners near Carlisle's former industrial properties what they think should rise from the dust and debris of factory demolition and the answers are similar: housing, parks or small neighborhood shops to serve residents.

The largest problem with former factories on Carlisle's north side — Masland/IAC, Tire & Wheel and Tyco Electronics — is that they're in the middle of or adjacent to large residential neighborhoods with nearby business districts.

Some business owners said they wouldn't mind having more company, especially if it meant a few more jobs to replace even a fraction of those lost when the factories closed.

"At first I didn't like this, because two of the largest employers in Carlisle on either end of my street went out of business," said Jim Gibson, owner of Firehouse Antiques at North West and C streets.

A block west is the former Tire & Wheel factory, today just empty buildings and a growing pile of rubble as concrete-crushing machines pulverize what's left of the company that made vehicle parts going back to 1917.

At the other end of C Street is the former Masland/IAC carpet and auto interiors factory. The factory spun out carpet and other products for 90 years, but it, too, is slowly becoming little more than rubble and dust. Together, the companies employed thousands of people at their heights of production.

Carlisle rezoned the former factory properties to mixed-use commercial last year and expanded its tax abatement zone to incentivize redevelopment.

It also hired Somerset County-based Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates Inc. in December to study the redevelopment options and engage the community in that process. The firm is planning workshops March 11-14 to take public input on the sites.

Housing for senior citizens, medical offices and small shops would be best for the Tire & Wheel property, Gibson said.

RE Invest Solutions, a New York-based planner with experience in converting industrial properties, has said medical offices and some residential development might be a good fit for the Tire & Wheel property. The company is overseeing the demolition and cleanup of the factory site.

The residential neighborhoods nearby are a big issue, even for business owners, but almost anything is better than vacant factories, they said.

"It needs to go into something other than industrial, something that fits the character of the neighborhood," said Cinda Cole Shannon, owner of Cole's Bicycles Inc., a Carlisle fixture on North Hanover Street for more than 65 years.

Cole's is just a couple blocks from the Masland/IAC property. Shops and apartments might work well there, Cole Shannon said. Other properties have been redeveloped in that part of town over the years.

Across from the Tyco Electronics building at Clay and Hamilton streets is 2 Generations, an embroidery, silk-screening and engraving shop for clothing and awards. It's odd that nothing is happening with the former electronics factory, said Pat Raymond, owner of 2 Generations.

"If they're tearing everything else down, it's a shame to let this go to waste," she said.

The former plant could be demolished to make way for shops, or even a parking garage for the car shows that Carlisle Events — owners of the Masland/IAC properties just up the street — presents multiple times a year, Raymond said.

Shops and restaurants or even a neighborhood park for the apartments across the street would also work, said Veronica Jackson, graphic artist at 2 Generations.

As Carlisle Events and RE Invest Solutions demolish the old factories at the larger properties, the Tyco Electronics building is the last one in limbo.

The building is still owned by Chester County-based TE Connectivity Ltd., and the company intends to sell it, spokesman Tom Peacock said.

"That could be a rehab," Carlisle Borough Manager Matt Candland said, meaning the building could be repaired, remodeled and reused.

For the time being, most plans are in a holding pattern on the properties, even if there are ideas of what they could be, he said. What comes from the Stromberg/Garrigan study will be important to generating ideas for the properties.

At a recent study information session, Bill Miller Jr., the owner of Carlisle Events, said he, too, was interested in hearing the public's input, even though he plans to develop shops, restaurants, condos and a boutique hotel on the IAC property beginning next year.

Desire is one way to gauge development ideas, but so is what developers know will sell. Ultimately, the market will determine a lot, Candland said.

"A mixture of uses is what the majority of the borough is," he said, "and that's a stable pattern, because you don't put all your eggs in one basket."

The manufacturing of ghost factories

Each Carlisle industrial property has a different story, but all are closely tied to the changing tides of American manufacturing and the recession that developed in 2008.

Ultimately, more than 600 people lost jobs in just three years when the factories closed, and even more if you count layoffs in years immediately prior.

Michigan-based International Automotive Components North America, or IAC, a conglomerate of auto parts makers for car companies, closed its factory on Carlisle Springs Road in 2008 after a steady stream of layoffs over several years.

IAC and its workers could not reach a contract deal in 2007, and the company said it was closing the factory because it was no longer competitive. More than 150 people lost their jobs when it closed.

Carlisle Tire & Wheel, a division of North Carolina-based diversified manufacturer Carlisle Cos. Inc., closed the North College Street factory in 2010 after announcing it was moving operations to a facility in Tennessee. The company received substantial assistance from Tennessee to consolidate two other facilities into one.

More than 340 people lost their jobs at Tire & Wheel between the 2009 announcement and the end of 2010.

Tyco Electronics, now known as TE Connectivity, closed its Hamilton Street factory in 2009 along with a York County facility as part of streamlining its production footprint in the U.S. and abroad. The closures left about 350 people in the midstate out of jobs, 117 of those in Carlisle.

The Switzerland-based company with U.S. headquarters in Chester County recently announced more layoffs at its offices in Dauphin County.

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan

Jim T. Ryan covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jimr@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JimTRyanCPBJ.

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