Once an active, bustling factory, the former Dixie Cup plant in Wilson Borough has laid dormant for more than a decade.
Inside, its four large, expansive floors, 25-foot-tall cement columns and high ceilings make it well suited for a transformation into one of real estate’s thriving products – upscale apartments.
However, the building’s sheer size, while an asset, has also proven to be a challenge. That, plus the amount of remediation required, means the project is taking longer than expected to move forward.
Nonetheless, Joseph Reibman, co-owner of the 600,000-square-foot structure, still plans to create Dixie Commons out of the vacant site, built in 1921, rather than tear the building down.
The project calls for a mixture of apartments, retail and office space, including potentially a restaurant on the first floor. While Reibman has earned approvals from the borough, the project must undergo environmental testing and remediation before construction can begin, and additional financing also is needed.
Once the testing and soil sampling are completed, the owners can submit a remedial investigation/cleanup plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Act 2, Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act.
Once that’s complete, Reibman plans to start construction later next year.
Though he has no tenants, he has people interested. He envisions the first floor hosting both commercial and residential uses.
“We’ve had two people make offers,” Reibman said. “We are negotiating an agreement. I also have some financing companies interested in financing this project.”
Reibman, who is a lawyer from Allentown, estimated the project will cost between $80 million and $90 million to complete. NK Architects of Morristown, N.J. designed the project.
The work would include removing lead-based paint and asbestos, replacing all fire-suppression systems in the building, installing bathrooms and adding 100,000 square feet of new windows.
“We have a couple of schemes of how we want to lay out the building,” Reibman said.
THE CUP STAYS
Part of the design involves creating courtyards within the building where people can gather.
“I want to keep everything that’s industrial,” Reibman said. “These columns will be incorporated into the design so they will be illuminated.”
He also plans to keep the iconic Dixie Cup structure, a cup-shaped water tank on top of the building, but plans to move it to take out the steel superstructure underneath, which has rusted.
The cup will be at the same elevation but moved to a different spot, he added.
Wilson was among 18 municipalities in 2013 that earned designation as Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones, where the state offers tax incentives to spur revitalization of underused and blighted properties. The KOEZ offers a 10-year abatement of taxes for residential properties and a 10-year abatement of state and corporate income taxes for businesses that locate in a zone.
“We would love to get it extended if we can,” Reibman said, referring to the timeframe of the tax incentive. “We are still paying taxes on the 600,000-square-foot property.”
The original plan calls for 303 upscale apartments, both one and two-bedroom units, with commercial/mixed use on the ground floor, he said.
As the project moves forward, Reibman said he would have to go back to the borough for approvals of construction drawings and an evaluation of the building, but said he does not expect that to be a problem.
Reibman said he also owns a 2.8-acre parking lot next door, in addition to parking spaces already on the site.