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United Way of Lancaster County


Stevens College students build affordable housing at former Shell Disposal site

Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology students work on a duplex at 640 S. Franklin St. on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

There’s been a lot of hammering and sawing lately at the corner of Chesapeake and Franklin streets.

Students from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology are hard at work there, building a duplex at the 640 S. Franklin St.

Every year, the college arranges a homebuilding project for its students in the construction trades. It provides the kind of practical, hands-on experience that a classroom just can’t replicate, carpentry instructor Timothy Draper said.

(Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Students in the two-year college’s carpentry, masonry, cabinetry, plumbing HVAC and electrical programs all take part. In all, close to 200 students eventually play some role in the build, college officials said.

The site sits across Chesapeake Street from the college’s Greiner Advanced Manufacturing Center. It’s just a hop and a skip from the 2022-23 build, 659-661 S. Marshall St., at the corner of Marshall and Schuylkill streets.

Stevens College students built this duplex in 2022-23 in the 600 block of South Marshall Street. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Stevens College is planning four duplexes at South Franklin, possibly five if the layout permits, said Pam Smith, vice president for college advancement.

The property was acquired from the Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority; under the terms of that agreement, the houses will be sold upon completion to city residents making no more than 80% of the county’s median income, which is currently $76,400 for a family of four.

The details of the project are still being worked out, so the college has not yet established a total project cost, but it’s estimated at around $4 million, spokeswoman Holly White said.

For the time being, the first duplex — the one now under construction — will sit alone. The college has a different site in mind for its 2024-25 build, Smith said. The 640 S. Franklin St. will resume in 2025-26, White said.

The 640 S. Franklin St. build as of early October. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

South Ann Concerned Neighbors

A portion of the frontage along Chesapeake Street at 602 Stevens Ave. is being reserved for South Ann Concerned Neighbors. The nonprofit is looking to build a project with a pizza shop and a fresh food market on the ground floor and two three-bedroom affordable housing units upstairs, the group’s leader, Darlene Byrd, said.

The project budget is a little over $1 million, Byrd said. South Ann Concerned Neighbors is seeking $550,000 through Pennsylvania’s Local Share Account program, which is funded by gaming revenue; and the remainder through a federal grant.

“We’re excited,” Byrd said. South Ann Concerned Neighbors has served as a liaison between Stevens College and the neighbors, who identified affordable housing and a fresh food market as a community need, she said.

First, though, the group needs to focus on 259 S. Ann St., she said. It is planning a community hub there, for which it has received $250,000 in city American Rescue Plan Act funding, toward a total budget of $886,347.

In this April 2023 file photo, Stevens College Vice President for Advancement Pam Smith stands by a sign on the property. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

The site’s history

Until the mid-2010s, 640 S. Franklin St. was the location of Shell’s Disposal and Recycling Center. The city acquired the property in a tax sale in 2016 and negotiated the sale of three nearby properties, 617, 639 and 643 Stevens Ave. Together, the properties total about 1.3 acres.

The city briefly proposed building a park there, then shifted gears. In 2018, it transferred the property to its redevelopment authority and solicited input from nearby residents, who favored using the site for affordable housing and community amenities. It put out requests for proposals from developers in 2018 and 2019.

In 2021, Stevens College came forward with a proposal that incorporated affordable duplexes, along with a small community-owned retail component. The college agreed to reimburse the city and authority for costs associated with holding the property; in return, the authority transferred it to the college’s foundation at no cost.

(Editor’s Note: This article initially said it was uncertain if the 640 S. Franklin St. build would resume in 2025-26. On Oct. 4, it was updated to reflect an assurance from Stevens College that it will.)