The former Diana Knitting Mill off North Perry and Grove streets in Johnstown is being groomed for Townsend Leather's expansion. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

The former Diana Knitting Mill off North Perry and Grove streets in Johnstown is being groomed for Townsend Leather’s expansion. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich

MIKE ANICH
Reporter
manich@leaderherald.com
Originally published in The Leader-Herald, May 3, 2017

JOHNSTOWN — Townsend Leather plans to expand into the former, vacant Diana Knitting Mill complex at North Perry and Grove streets, eventually creating more than 50 new jobs to start.

The renewal and manufacturing project was unveiled by Townsend representative Stitchery Realty LLC to the city Planning Board Tuesday at City Hall.

“We’ve been looking at floor space throughout the city,” Tim Beckett of Stitchery told the board.

He said Townsend could have looked elsewhere, but decided to stay in the city of Johnstown.

Townsend Leather on Townsend Avenue, which dyes and produces leather goods for vendors throughout the world, has been in business since 1969.

The former Diana Knitting Mill at 229 N. Perry St. is a three-parcel, multi-building connected complex that has been empty for more than 15 years.

The complex includes a 66,000-square-foot building, of which 47,000 square feet is a three-story, former knitting mill; and a 19,000-square-foot, two-story addition built in 1988 with conveyer system.

Beckett said Townsend is seeking a new business operating permit for the mill area. Zoning in that part of Johnstown is currently classified as commercial. There are no zoning issues. He said the eventual Townsend operation would include manufacturing equipment, dry drums and a leather buffing machine. He said one side of the complex would hire up to 12 people to start and the brick side of the plant facing Grove Street would involve about 40 employees to start.

But Beckett cautioned that much work has to be done to the building and the new Townsend operation may not come to fruition for a year to two years.

According to an informational letter from Stitchery Realty LLC to the planning board, Townsend is under contract to purchase the former mill.

“The contract is contingent on structural, environmental and zoning approval for industrial manufacturing at the site,” the Stitchery letter states.

The letter notes the existing parcels need to be changed, altered or granted a variance prior to purchase.

“We have an agreement with [Townsend] to lease one-third of the building with an option to take half of the space should we have manufacturing on these parcels,” the letter says. “The local manufacturer’s production will be inclusive of the building. There would be no external exhaust or wastewater additions to the building nor would they be emitting any particles. The lease and purchase of this building are dependent upon manufacturing at the [former] Diana Mill.”

The letter says the plan is not to “alter the existing footprint” of the building.

“Construction on the building will be to focus on getting it back up to code and capable of leasing out,” the letter states. “There are a few small out buildings on the southwest section of the Grove Street building parcel. These buildings were to house old boilers, which may need to come down as the roofs are in disrepair. The remainder of the building will be planned for future rental space for startup manufacturers, potential office space and even some co-working offices with shared services. These would be developed after the first phase of construction is complete and the building is up to code to be leased out.”

“Parking is a tough scenario for us,” Beckett said.

But he said his firm has been in touch with nearby JAVAC, to possibly use some of its parking spaces.

Beckett said a two-year plan for the complex is to take out some trees around the building and windows will be replaced.

The board voted to hold a public hearing on the project for 4 p.m. June 6 at City Hall. The board also voted itself lead agency for the state Environmental Quality Review process that is required.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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