Mountain Springs site gets new lease on life

By on June 29, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

By the time the leaves fall this autumn, the Mountain Springs mansion along Main Street in Ephrata will be transformed from an empty landmark to a bustling business center. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)By the time the leaves fall this autumn, the Mountain Springs mansion along Main Street in Ephrata will be transformed from an empty landmark to a bustling business center. (Photo by Preston Whitcraft)

For more than two centuries the property known as Mountain Springs has been an Ephrata landmark. Now, the last remaining original building on the site is getting a new lease on life, with renovations well underway to the mansion’s interior.

The Mountain Springs site was developed to contain a hotel, restaurant and a new office facility. Originally, those plans called for the mansion to be converted into be a meeting space. With extensive improvements being made to the structure, each of the three floors is being reconfigured with that use in mind. The end product will be a three-story office building.

A small addition to the rear corner of the house will be constructed in such a way as to appear to have always been a part of the building. It will house ADA approved bathrooms and an elevator.

The office space has yet to be leased.

"I anticipate it will be used as offices for boutique-sized businesses who are looking for visibility along Main Street and whom want to enjoy the upscale image the newly renovated building will offer," said Michael J. O’Brien, president of the Oak Tree Development Group in Lancaster — the developer for the project. "The building can house up to five tenants with suites ranging from 400- to 2,000-square-feet. There are currently three tenants interested in the space but we can not disclose the names of the prospects at this time."

According to O’Brien, funding for the project is being supplied by a private equity group as well as through conventional financing through Integrity Bank. The building is owned by Mountain Springs Hotel LLC which is comprised of local Lancaster County businessmen and the Ephrata Economic Development Corporation.

The entire project was started back in 1999. The Ephrata Economic Development Corporation, in cooperation with the borough and state, raised over $3.3 million to designate the site a Pennsylvania Keystone Opportunity Zone — which will offer tax relief to the businesses that locate there and contributed to traffic and streetscape improvements along Main Street.

The borough and community supported the project during the developmental phase and continue to support the project by patronizing the Hampton Inn and Applebee’s on the site.

"The building is old and it presents challenges when trying to repair and retro-fit it for modern day uses," noted O’Brien of the unique challenges presented in trying to renovate the old mansion.

Wohlsen Construction is the general contractor on the project. Bernardon, Haber and Halloway are the architects for the project.

"The overall project has been a success because of a strong private/public partnership," said O’Brien. "The Ephrata Economic Development Corporation showed great vision and leadership in helping this project come to fruition."

Mountain Springs was built as a popular summer resort for the wealthy and well connected in the 1800s. Later, it housed the first Ephrata Community Hospital. In the 1930s it became home to Camp Silver Belle, owned by spiritists who practiced seances in the building.

Considering the building’s history, many local have often wondered whether or not those working on the building have perhaps seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.

But O’Brien’s said "no credible reports have been logged of spirits appearing or objects moving on their own."

An August completion date is planned for the project. More MTN. SPRINGS, page A17

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