The former Baldini's Bakery, a landmark in Summit Hill, went out of business more than a year ago. Now the building housing the bakery will be converted into 13 self-storage units.
Approval for the conversion was granted last night by the Summit Hill Zoning Hearing Board.
There were no objectors to the proposal.
W. Todd Mason of Jim Thorpe, who converted a former bar in Jim Thorpe into self-storage units and also owns units in Nesquehoning, said he purchased the Baldini building at 42 E. Ludlow St. on Dec. 23, 2008. Baldini's was already out of business when he made the purchase.
He said he explored the potential of reopening a bakery, making the building a grocery store, or adding apartments, but none of those options were feasible. Parking restrictions prevent the bakery or restaurant from becoming a possibility, while other zoning issues stopped him from adding apartments.
The building already has apartments on the second and third floor. The bakery operated on the first floor of the structure.
Although the zoning board passed the variance by unanimous vote, one member of the panel voiced concerns. Tom Tkach asked for assurances that renters would not store illegal or dangerous items in the units.
Mason said he interviews everyone who wants to rent a unit and has stringent rules for storage. For example, lawnmowers wouldn't be permitted because of flammable liquids.
At the request of the zoning board, Mason agreed to put a stipulation into the leases stating that he can make random checks of the units.
Mason said when he purchased Baldini's, he not only obtained the building but all the baking equipment and other items involved in the business. He said this included two large commercial ovens.
There will be 13 self storage units in the building, six in the rear and seven in the front, all on the first floor. Entry to the units will be from the rear of the building. The front door will be an emergency exit only.
Mason said he will have new siding placed on the building to enhance its appearance.
He explained to the zoning panel that from experience, it is generally people in the neighborhood who rent the units. Often people going through separation or divorce rent the self-storage units to store their furniture and other belongings.
"It's a fairly simple project," he said. "I don't think it will negatively impact the neighborhood."
He promised to do all he can to make sure there are no problems, stating, "I want to have a nice, long-term relationship with the borough of Summit Hill."
Testifying on his behalf was Eugene Mulligan, zoning officer and building code official in Jim Thorpe.
"His properties are always well maintained," Mulligan said of Mason. "I never had a complaint on any of his properties."