Partners seeking business tenants for The Mill


The partnership that has renovated the former Puritan silk mill near the Graystone Grande Palazzo is looking for business tenants — and finding that the protracted COVID-19 pandemic may be complicating the search.

Basic construction on the $13 million project ended in August, and marketing began before then, but no one has committed yet, according to John Radionoff, president of Silk Mill Properties Inc.

“I think companies are trying to find themselves again, post-COVID,” Radionoff said on Wednesday. “They’re trying to find the right mix of home vs. in-office workers.”

The four-story, 100,000-square-foot, L-shaped brick building still needs to be built out on the interior, based on individual tenant needs, according to Radionoff and the project’s marketing webpage on loopnet.com.

There are two units on each floor of the long leg, separated by a bank of elevators at each level, and one unit on the floors of the short leg, according to Radionoff.

The short-leg unit on the first floor is intended for a restaurant, and there also could be a cafe.

Key features include exposed brick on the interior side of the external walls and exposed timbers in the ceilings, according to Radionoff, an architect.

“We painstakingly removed every ounce of paint,” Radionoff said.

The exterior walls are two feet thick at the thinnest and so provide the necessary insulation, even though they’re exposed, he said.

The many windows are double paned for insulation value.

There’s lots of natural light, he said.

The roof is heavily insulated above the sub-roof deck, then covered with metal roofing, so that the wood trusses and wood planking on the fourth floor are visible, he said.

All the prospective tenants who’ve viewed the interior so far were pleased to see the exposed original materials, according to Radionoff.

“It’s got a character,” he said of the building, which was constructed during the decade beginning in 1894.

There is also a tall smokestack on the property, which workers rehabilitated at considerable expense. “We wanted to keep the historic feel,” said Shasta Langenbacher, spokeswoman for Leonard S. Fiore construction company, three of whose executives are in the partnership.

Apparently, many companies are not “ready to pull the trigger” on a rental commitment, given the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic, even as it wanes, Radionoff said. “They want to see where things are going,” he said.

“(But) we’re talking to people,” he said.

As for how serious the inquiries have been, “I learned a long time ago nothing is serious until the ink is dry,” Radionoff said.

The Altoona Blair County Development Corp. is helping to market the structure.

“ABCD believes this will be a magnet for attracting good quality jobs to the area,” Radionoff said.

That should mean “high paying salaried workers,” Radionoff said.

“That would make me happy,” he said of drawing outside firms to Altoona. The partnership may turn the third and fourth floors — or just the fourth — into residential units, Radionoff said.

The space could accommodate 13 one- or two-bedroom units per floor, he said.

The rental rates for the commercial units would depend on the amount of square footage taken, the length of the lease and the creditworthiness of the tenant, Radionoff said.

More space, longer leases and better credit will tend to reduce the price, he said.

He’s not sure about the residential rents, he said.

The building is technically a condominium, so there is an opportunity for prospective occupants to purchase units in the building, Radionoff said.

The structure could end up a hybrid, with some units rented and some owned by other parties, he said.

The partnership received a $4 million grant and a $6 million low-interest loan for the project from the state’s Business in Our Sites program.

The city contributed to the project by making site improvements in the public right of way and waiving fees for a value of about $210,000, according to a developer’s agreement.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.

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