New developer looking at old Citizens Bank

Sean Philip Cotter

After a dispute among developers and York City's Redevelopment Authority, a familiar name ended up with the rights to one of the city's most prominent buildings.

Yohn Property Management agreed to pay the authority $1,000 for the exclusive rights to look into developing the old Citizens Bank building in Continental Square.

The old Citizens Bank building at 1 N. George St. in York City.

The York City-based company will have 60 days from Oct. 1 to decide whether it wants to move forward with purchasing the property at 1 N. George St. After that time, Yohn has to either move to buy the building or walk away.

Graham Will, a representative for the company, said that his organization would want to make the first floor commercial space and the upper floors apartments. He declined to tell the RDA board or The York Dispatch what kind of commercial space it might be but said the company has strong interest from one possible tenant and has been in touch with an additional one, too.

Developer drops out of 1 N. George project

David Yohn, of Yohn Property Management, said at the meeting that he didn't want to talk yet about how much his company would be willing to pay for the property. The city wanted $400,000 for the property from a previous would-be developer.

This would be the second of four corners of York City's main square that Yohn Property Management controls. The company is wrapping up development on the One MarketWay West project across George Street from this building. Residents have moved into apartments there, and a bistro will open on the property's first floor in the next several weeks, Will said.

"It's basically a continuation of One MarketWay West," Yohn told the RDA board of the potential project at 1 N. George St..

Clash: But Yohn and Will weren't the only people there with their eyes on the old bank building. York-area Realtors Tawanda Thomas and her husband, Tony, also came to the meeting in the hopes of presenting their plan to bring retail into the first floor and make the rest into apartments and a rooftop gathering space.

But, unlike Yohn Property Management, the Thomases, who had partnered with veteran Baltimore developer Anthony Rogers, didn't find themselves on the RDA agenda.

Developer Derek Dilks had the rights for the property for more than a year before he dropped out earlier this month, clearing the way for other developers.

"If you're in this business, you've got to follow what's happening," Yohn said.

City staffers, who are the ones who put items on the RDA agenda, said it boiled down to the fact that Yohn had sent in a proposal and the Thomases hadn't.

"I never got a proposal," said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's interim director of economic and community development.

And the RDA board isn't allowed to vote on anything that wasn't on the agenda before the meeting. RDA board chair Dave Cross and the other members tried to come up with some sort of solution that was fair to both parties.

"Frankly, I'm very uncomfortable with this," Cross said of giving the option to Yohn without the Thomases having an equal chance to speak their piece.

But at the same time, he said, the board didn't want to push the discussion off to next month's meeting, possibly throwing a wrench into the plans of Yohn, which had done everything right.

And then, suddenly, both developers changed tack. Yohn said the Thomases could take it and try to do something with a 60-day window.

Tony Thomas then said the same, offering Yohn the option.

"We'll just find another project to work on," Tony Thomas said.

The board quickly OK'd giving the rights to Yohn.

After the meeting, the Thomases were frustrated, but kept their eyes forward.

"We are disappointed," Tawanda Thomas said.

But you live and you learn, Tony Thomas said — now they know the process.

"We'll be back," Tawanda Thomas said.

— Sean Cotter covers York City for The York Dispatch. Contact him or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.