The Gamble Mill in Bellefonte has been empty since 2015 and since then seen two potential sales fall through, but now the historic building finally has new owners.
Brothers Chris and Jonathan Virgilio, owners of local real estate and development company Virgilio Investments LLC, said on Friday that they have officially acquired the property at 160 Dunlap Street.
“We are very excited to contribute to the revitalization of the Waterfront District along the river walk .The Bellefonte Borough has done an excellent job enhancing the natural beauty of Spring Creek and making it more accessible to the general public,” Jonathan Virgilio said in a press release. “The walkable connection to the historic downtown makes Bellefonte a very attractive destination for both locals and weekenders to enjoy.”
The original Lamb Mill grist mill was constructed on the site in 1786. The mill on the property was known by several names until it closed in 1947. It became a restaurant in 1986 and its last owners added a brewpub before it closed in January 2015.
Virgilio said the five-story building ‘needs a lot of work’ but the brothers are excited to restore it. The first two floors have about 7,500 of retail space that will be leased.
The location and historic ambiance make it ideal for ‘a restaurant, brew pub, beer hall, or event space,’ according to the press release. The upper floors, which are currently unfinished, will be converted to residential units.
“We want to re-establish Gamble Mill as a destination and give people multiple reasons to visit the site. Being selective about the type of businesses that occupy these spaces is important to us. They need to be establishments the public can enjoy and be synergistic with each other and the community,” Virgilio said. “Additionally, there is untapped potential in the unfinished upper floors of the property, which will be transformed for residential use.”
Design work will begin immediately and renovations could start in the winter. The building could open as soon as next summer, the Virgilios said.
The sale of the Gamble Mill is the latest development in the effort to revitalize Bellefonte’s Waterfront District.
Bellefonte completed the new walkway and wall along Spring Creek in 2016 and last year developers Tom Songer and Mark Morath announced they had entered an agreement to purchase and develop the vacant parcel that was formerly home to the Bush House, which burned down in 2006.
The developers intend to construct a boutique hotel and restaurant along with retail and residential buildings on the vacant lot..
The Gamble Mill, meanwhile, had two potential buyers before the Virgilios closed. A group of investors worked on purchasing the building, with plans to open a new restaurant and brewery, for about a year until backing away in 2017. Another potential buyer sought to purchase it and open The Inn at Lamb’s Mill, which would have been a hotel, restaurant and brewpub, but that sale fell through in 2018.
The Virgilios, who began working on the purchase last fall, are working with the Penn State Small Business Development Center as they officially move forward with bringing new life to the building.
“The Penn State Small Business Development Center is positive that this project will bring a valuable asset back into the light of Bellefonte,’ said John Peterson, interim director of the Penn State SBDC. ‘There has been a lot of hard work done in the background, and the Penn State Small Business Development Center will continue to help Virgilio Investments, LLC with the project to help with its economic impact.”
Chris and Jonathan Virgilio outside the Gamble Mill in Bellefonte. Photo provided.