Royal Square to redevelop youth center, Masonic lodge

Sean Philip Cotter

The turreted and domed red-brick building across the street from Central Market in York City over the next few years could come to contain anything from apartments to office space to a club.

The building at 55 W. Philadelphia St. has been a youth center for 40 years, after being a Masonic lodge and post office.

The York Rescue Mission has sold its youth center at 55 W. Philadelphia St. to the city's Redevelopment Authority, which on Wednesday voted to authorize staff to enter into an agreement with Royal Square Development to undertake substantial work on the palatial old brick building.

The city bought the property using $250,000 from a benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's interim director of economic and community development, after Wednesday's RDA meeting. The city sometimes charges a holder's fee to the development companies who are working on RDA-owned properties they intend to buy, but it won't do so for Royal Square for at least the first three years of the five-year agreement as the organization decides what route to take with the building, he said.

The 27,000-square-foot red brick building at the corner of North Beaver Street has held the York Rescue Mission's Lighthouse Youth Center for the past 40-plus years. Before that, it was a post office and then a Masonic lodge.

Dylan Bauer, Royal Square's vice president of development, said the layout from both of those previous uses lends itself well to a gathering place.

"It’s laid out in such a way that it’d be great for events and banquets," Bauer said.

That's why Bauer brought up an event hall or club, but he said there's many different ideas out there for what to do with the space, and they're looking to figure out what the demands of downtown York City are right now before they decide what to do, he said.

But it's going to need some work. Bauer said the rescue mission has done a great job maintaining the history of the building, but the third floor hasn't been touched in years, and the entire structure needs some modernizing in terms of air conditioning and newer windows. Bauer was unwilling to give much of a timeline for the work on the building, as Royal Square and the city need to secure funding first.

"It’s a very big project, so it needs government subsidies to make it work," he said.

York Rescue Mission executive director Matthew Carey said his organization will take the quarter of a million dollars it received from the city and invest it into its youth programs. The services offered in that big building have shuffled around and are now held in partnership with Asbury United Methodist Church at 340 E. Market St. and St. Matthew Lutheran Church at 839 W. Market St., he said. The money will go in large part to summer programs and scholarships for kids, Carey said.

"We want to use that money in a purposeful way to help the kids of this community," Carey said.

— Reach Sean Cotter or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.