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Community vision considered in Lititz chocolate factory sale

Now that the former Wilber chocolate factory in Lititz is for sale, questions are swirling about what it will become. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

The chocolate factory in downtown Lititz is officially for sale, and the questions are swirling.

How much will it sell for? Who is looking to buy it? What will the building become? What will happen to the Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum and Candy Store?

Thursday’s announcement that Minneapolis-based Cargill is selling the chocolate factory in downtown Lititz came as no surprise, but questions surrounding what will happen to the long-standing building in the heart of downtown Lititz have some in suspense.

But repurposing the building is a big undertaking considering its size and age, said Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County. Whatever is going to happen probably won’t happen any time soon, even if CBRE Inc., the real estate firm managing the sale, meets its mid-April deadline to sell.

The Wilbur Chocolate Candy Americana Museum and Candy Store remains open and will continue to stay open throughout the sale process, said Cargill spokesman Pete Stoddart. Cargill will work with the buyers to try to keep the store in its current location, he said.

Repurposing an icon

Riggs confirmed that, behind the scenes, conversations have been going on to ensure that all parties involved — Cargill, CBRE, the Lititz Borough and the Lancaster County economic development company — are on the same page about the community’s vision for its downtown.

In addition to concerns over potential uses for the former factory, there are concerns about street frontage, the iconic elements to the property and the fate of the building’s façade.

“Ultimately Cargill is the one who’s going to make the decision on who they choose to sell the property to,” Riggs said. “Cargill still has a large presence in the area, and they know that the site is important to the community.”

Cargill operates a second plant on West Lincoln Avenue in Lititz that will continue making chocolate.

As a facilitator for some of the ongoing conversations, the EDC is exploring possible roles it can play to ensure positive redevelopment of the site, Riggs said.

“Our primary goal was to be supportive to the community and the company, because we know that this is a big transition for both,” Riggs said.

History dates back to 1900

The 179,798-square-foot building has been used to manufacture chocolate in Lancaster County since 1900. Some suggestions for future use on the flier produced by CBRE include multifamily living, condominiums, retail, office, senior living and hospitality.

Cargill first announced plans to shut down the plant in October 2015.

Approximately 130 jobs, mostly from the plant in downtown Lititz, were eliminated as of January. Another 30 employees were reassigned or offered the option to relocate.

In early January, Cargill organized a job fair to connect former employees with 17 local businesses for prospective opportunities, according to Stoddart.

Lenay Ruhl

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