Developer plans 50-plus apartments for Baker building
One of the developers proposing hundreds of market-rate apartments for York City's Northwest Triangle area wants to put 59 more into the old Baker building.
York City's planning commission heard the proposal Monday for changes to the building, located at 232 E. Market St. and owned by the York County Heritage Trust, said Joshua Juffe, a principal at Tri Corner Homebuilding Solutions.
The building, which was built in the 1950s for the J.E. Baker company, is vacant; Juffe's company is attempting to buy the 44,000-square-foot structure and the parking lot across East Mason Avenue behind it.
The units would be a mix of one- and two-bedroom lofts and flats, as well as some duplex-style apartments spanning the ground floor and the basement. The apartments would range in price from about $795 a month to more than $1,300 a month, Juffe said.
He said his company is not quite sure what aesthetic designers want to go for with the apartments, but he said they'll have all the top-of-the-line amenities one would expect to find in downtown apartments, such as high-end appliances, nicely finished woodwork and balconies on some units. And they'll keep the more striking elements of the interior, such as a grand marble staircase and the old company president's cherry-paneled office.
"Wherever there’s anything done nicely, we’re going to preserve it," he said. The developers will either incorporate areas such as those into apartments or keep them as common spaces, he said.
Planning: Juffe presented all this to the planning commission on Monday. The discussion about the plans lasted a couple of hours, and ended with planning commission members asking his company to consider their input on the plans and come back for June's meeting, according to Juffe and the commission.
Michael Johnson, the chairman of the city's planning commission, said Juffe was seeking several variances to the zoning code. For one, the developer wants to make the building taller than is currently allowed — he wants to add a floor and a half to it, bringing the building to about 60,000 square feet. There's not a whole lot of issue with that, though, as the building was originally intended to be taller than it is, Johnson said.
Juffe said the original builders even included buttons in the elevator for nonexistent fifth and sixth floors, and there are metal pylons sticking out of the flat, concrete roof originally meant to sustain further building.
And the top floors will slope back from the front, so little change will be visible from the street, both men said.
Johnson said there was more concern about density and parking. The zoning ordinance requires 1.5 parking spaces per unit, so the building would need close to 90. Juffe asked the planning commission, which is an advisory body that serves as something of a gatekeeper for the zoning hearing board and city council, to let the building have 58 spots — the number of spaces in the parking lot behind the building.
Johnson said the commission suggested Juffe amend the plans to turn the building into fewer units — maybe 54 or 55 instead of 59, he said. The commission also suggested Tri Corner find more parking spots, perhaps by making a deal with the owners of nearby parking lots to do so, he said.
Johnson said several residents at the meeting voiced concerns about both the parking and the number of units.
"It's not by any means a slam dunk," he said of the chances of the planning commission's voting in favor of the plan next time.
Juffe said he plans to make arrangements for more parking spots nearby, as the commission suggested, and he believes he will easily be able to get up around the 90-spot mark.
"It doesn't look like it’s going to be a nail-biter," he said of resolving the parking issue.
If Tri Corner, which has offices in Harrisburg and Stewartstown, gets the OK from all the necessary city government bodies, Juffe hopes to close on the building during the summer, start work immediately and have the apartments ready to go by spring 2017.
Tri Corner is one of the four developers who have presented proposals to the city's redevelopment authority to buy several acres of land to the west of the 200 block of North Beaver Street and build heavily upon it. Tri Corner prop0sed building 342 market-rate apartments in that area, called the Northwest Triangle, with spots for several retailers on the bottom floors of the buildings. It would be 303,000 square feet of residential floor space and 24,000 square feet of commercial space built on what's now empty land.
The RDA said during its previous meeting that it expects to have a decision by the May meeting, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, in council chambers at city hall, 101 S. George St.