HAWLEY - When the Hawley Silk Mill went up for auction three years ago, members of the Hawley Silk Mill LLC, a private development group, envisioned opportunities that could come to the region through the oldest bluestone building in the world. Grant Genzlinger, owner
of The Settlers Inn, and a member of the development group toured the Mill recently with state representatives, discussing the history of the Mill and the modern-day successes that have been made through the prosperity of the Mill. Genzlinger
said the group realized the community needed four things; higher education, medical resources, additional quality of life and a forum for entrepreneurial business and technology. All of those things, he said, have come to the area because of the Millís success and through several partnerships. Today, with an array of businesses, organizations and even Lackawanna College housed in the entire top floor of the building, Genzlinger
called the college a "key tenant," because the school, "gave us a leg up for working," as a large financial partner. Carolyn Newhouse, the Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Investment for the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) commended the partners because, rather than tearing down the old Mill and building something cheaper, the partners, "took the hard road," so the Mill would have character, and be a "hallmark in the community."
The Manager of the Mill, Mark Mitchell said the project was "aggressive," in the beginning as the group worked to stay ahead of construction and find tenants. Today, there are about 2,000 square feet left in the building. With businesses and organizations like the American Red Cross, a lawyer, a fitness center and more filling areas in the building. He added that there is, "some real diversity here and some long-term tenants."
Executive Director of Wayne Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO), Marybeth Wood, said Lackawanna Collegeís enrollment at the Mill has doubled and is now the largest branch of the college with four degrees that are unique to the Mill. She called it a, "tremendous asset to the whole Wayne/Pike region."
Construction for the collegeís culinary school has started, but is on a pause as the college tries to secure funding. The lower level of the Mill will be converted into a culinary school with 25 students already enrolled. The boiler room, which Genzlinger said was in a, "dreadful condition," will be used as a teaching classroom, a demonstration kitchen space and future presidents dining event space. The college will also lease the room back to the Hawley Silk Mill LLC, for community services like performing arts and music on weekends and evenings, he said. Working with the school, is a "unique partnership," which has given the Hawley Silk Mill LLC, the opportunity to, "reinvest in education and quality of life," he explained. Recognizing that the area is a recreational, seasonal resort area, Genzlinger said it is important that the Hawley Silk Mill LLC supports the construction of the culinary school because it is in best interest of local businessís to, "send our best and brightest to school to raise the bar at our own businesses."
Preservation, Genzlinger said, was a goal when the Mill was renovated. When the roof was replaced, the 130-year-old wood was saved and is now some of the furniture in the Millís coffee house, the Cocoon, and is part of the Ledges Hotel, which opened in 2012 just down the hill.
Wood called the building an, "enterprise center," and a "great asset," because of all that is happening through whatís in the Mill. The consortium training space thatís available, she said, "expands our capabilities," as there has been training for veterans, grant funding and programs for fifth graders about industry clusters.
Three years ago, when everything was coming together for what is now the Hawley Silk Mill, Mitchell said those involved, "didnít have time to take a breath and look around at the success." Today though, with about 2,000 square feet left in the building, he told the group to, "talk about us," as he said a dentist would fit nicely in an open office or perhaps a specialty doctor. Even yet, with a laugh, Mitchell proposed the idea of a pizza place because, "weíve got a perfect spot."
The tour was part of the three-day "DCED on the Road" event, March 25-27, which includes several stops in Northeastern Pennsylvania by DCED officials, highlighting tourism and economic development projects. DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker and Deputy Secretary Champ Holman also visited downtown Hawley on March 25, viewing facade and street improvements undertaken by the Borough and Downtown Hawley Partnership (see separate article).