Funds sought to transform warehouse

The site of the former Diana Knitting Mill at North Perry and Grove Streets in Johnstown, which Townsend Leather wants to rehabilitate, is pictured Monday. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — City lawmakers decided Monday night to apply for state funding to assist Townsend Leather’s project to transform the 66,000-square-foot, former Diana Knitting Mill building into useable workspace.

The Common Council voted at City Hall to apply for funding under the Restore New York Communities Initiative Round 5.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said Mayor Vern Jackson.

Townsend Leather on Townsend Avenue, which dyes and produces leather goods for vendors throughout the world, has been working with the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and the city on an expansion project.

The city Planning Board on June 6 approved a request by Townsend Leather to renovate the former Diana Knitting Mill building at 229 N. Perry St. and Grove Street so it can expand and create more than 50 new jobs to start.

Representatives of Townsend Leather, and occasional city grant writer Nicholas Zabawsky, were in attendance at Monday night’s council session. Jackson said Townsend just closed this week on the building.

The resolution stated, in part, that the city “ seeks to undertake projects to achieve the economic revitalization of the city.” The Empire State Development Corp. is making funding available to assist economic development and community revitalization activities through the Restore New York Communities Initiative.

The initiative provides municipalities with financial assistance for revitalization of commercial and residential properties. The program encourages community development and neighborhood growth through the elimination and redevelopment of blighted structures.

“The city has identified a project that will have a major impact on improving economic conditions in the city and will provide the foundation for further redevelopment within the city,” the resolution adds. “The city finds that the proposed financing is appropriate for the project; that the project facilitates effective and efficient use of existing and future public resources so as to promote both economic development and preservation of community resources; and that the project develops and enhances infrastructure and/or other facilities in a manner that will attract, create and sustain employment opportunities.”

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

Stitchery Realty LLC and the JC Group LLC — on behalf of Townsend — requested to renovate the Diana complex.

Townsend is seeking a new business operating permit for the mill area, where zoning in that part of Johnstown is currently classified as commercial. The eventual Townsend operation would include manufacturing equipment, dry drums and a leather buffing machine. 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.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]


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