NORTHAMPTON TOWNSHIP >> Yet another buyer has stepped forward to breathe new life into the dilapidated Mill Race Inn located in the heart of Holland.
On August 26, during its monthly Zoom meeting, the Northampton Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept a proposal from M.J. Costigan of Yardley to purchase the former Mill Race Inn property and to authorize the township manager and the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County to execute an agreement of sale for $235,000.
The company is proposing to build a 21 unit condominium building toward the back of the property near the creek and to restore the original mill overlooking Mill Creek. Plans call for maintaining the original mill structure, cleaning it up and converting the structure into office space.
“The condominiums are going to be a very nice use for this property and add to the development of Holland. It’s a very positive thing,” said Supervisor Barry Moore, in announcing the sale.
According to Moore, the new property owner will benefit from the township’s recently renewed LERTA zone, a tax abatement program on new construction and property improvements that defers state, county and local taxes on assessment improvements for a period of five years.
The LERTA zone, which includes the Mill Race Inn property, was established five years ago by the township and renewed this year for another five years to encourage residents and developers to invest in their properties and in the township.
Three years ago, following a public bidding process, the supervisors accepted a proposal from Riviera House LLC to purchase the property for $275,000.
Riviera had submitted the winning bid for the blighted property, which was condemned and subsequently put up for sale by the RDA and the township in February 2017. As part of the process, the property was assessed at $185,000.
Riviera had planned to spend more than $2 million restoring the original mill portion of the building and renovating the local landmark into a Mediterranean-style restaurant with seating and event space for between 100 and 150 people.
Moore, however, said they couldn’t get the economics to work. “It didn’t make sense from a feasibility standpoint. But we’re very fortunate to have M.J. Costigan proposing to purchase the property.”
The sale proceeds, said Moore, will cover an amount due to the original owners, plus all the costs associated with the transaction.
“I’d like to thank the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County for all their efforts with this,” said Moore. “Plus I’d like to call out Township Manager Bob Pellegrino for working very diligently over the past several years identifying potential buyers.
“It’s really been pulling down Holland in the sense that it needed to be renovated,” said Moore back in 2017 of the once popular dining destination. “Through a very lengthy process, the township was able to take control of the property” with the intent of renovating it and returning it to the tax rolls.
In February 2017, the RDA put the property up for sale encouraging developers and private investors to come forward with development proposals that would preserve the historic nature of the building.
“It’s been an eyesore for many, many years,” said Supervisor Dr. Kimberly Rose. “The fact that they are willing to restore the original mill is also a good thing, saving something of historical value in our community. It’s a good decision.”
Added Chairman Adam Selisker, “This is a long time in coming. Hopefully we get all the way through it and we get the property cleaned up.”
After the sale is finalized by the RDA, the next step for the developer will be to secure any zoning and land development approvals required by the township.
The Mill Race Inn has been shuttered since 1999 when the remnants of Hurricane Floyd caused significant damage to the building.
It sustained additional damage in 2001 when a dam broke on Mill Creek as a result of driving rain. Since then, the once popular restaurant and event venue has deteriorated into a “total state of disrepair.”
In 2013, the board of supervisors took action to address the decaying property, declaring the 14,000 square foot building, a once popular gathering spot for receptions and special occasions, as blighted under the Pennsylvania Urban Redevelopment Law.
The supervisors also voted to engage the services of the RDA to “take action” to redevelop the site through the condemnation of the property.
With the property deemed blighted, the RDA and the township moved forward with condemnation proceedings against the property with the goal of having it “rehabilitated, renovated and put back into a functional purpose.”
The owners - Mill Race Inn, Ltd, of Langhorne - challenged the condemnation in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas in 2015 arguing that the RDA did not follow proper procedures when it proceeded with its condemnation of the property.
The court, after hearing arguments from both sides, rejected the objections made by the owners allowing the condemnation to move forward.
The owners appealed the decision to Commonwealth Court, which upheld the lower court ruling again finding in favor of the RDA.
The RDA subsequently moved forward with the condemnation of the property and then put it up for sale in February 2017.