BLOG: Development around York City
It's important to note that the concept of "development" in a city is broad, much broader than the face value of what new buildings are popping up. It's economics, it's safety, it's culture. It's people — who's moving in, and who lives there already, what's happening to everybody.
But ... it's also the buildings that are popping up. Here's a non-exhaustive list of what's going on in York City right now in that regard.
It's somewhat interesting to note that many of these properties were sold to the developers by the city's Redevelopment Authority, which owns more than 250 of the city's abandoned properties and lots.
The RDA ends up with many vacant lots and properties that have been condemned. Using money from the federal Community Development Block Grant and other sources, it either stabilizes the properties or knocks them down, and then sells them on the (relatively) cheap — some for just a couple of thousand dollars, or even less.
The goal, obviously, would be for the city to own very few properties; having abandoned properties anywhere drags down property values, and it also means there's no one there paying property taxes to the cash-strapped city.
So here some are. Click the links for more info about each. Just on this list are more than 250 apartments that developers aim to have on the market in in the next couple of years.
Royal Square: Royal Square Development and Construction has expanded out of just the Royal Square area. Now the company is starting up a project in the first block of West Market Street. They're taking three buildings — the Zaikey's building, which in the 2000s held the Evolution nightclub and Bourbon Street Saloon at 25 W. Market St.; then there's the Woolworth building at 44 W. Market St.; and Weinbrom Jewelers at 54-56 W. Market St. — and turning them into 36 high-end apartments called Revi Flats and 11 retail locations, including two restaurants.
They had a groundbreaking ceremony about a month ago, at which my heart was warmed by the chance to get video of local officials taking halfhearted "ceremonial" sledgehammer swings at a wall.
Officials at that event said the plan is for the project to take about 12 to 14 months. Anyone going by the corner of Beaver and Market can see workers making headway at the former Weinbrom Jewelers building.
Northwest Triangle: The Baltimore-based Time Group recently won the rights to look into development on the city's several-acre largely vacant Northwest Triangle west of the 200 block of South Beaver Street.
Four companies submitted bids for the right to look into developing the property, and the RDA gave it to the Time Group, which proposed to building apartment buildings holding 130 to 150 units running about about $700 to $1,500 a month.
The four buildings they're proposing along the west side of the 200 block of North Beaver Street would be about 124,000 square feet, with the 14,000-square-foot first-floor portion of the buildings being used as commercial space for shops or restaurants, the company told me in April.
This project will cost $17 million to $19 million, according to the group's project manager. And that's only "Phase I;" the second stage would focus on the rest of the triangle land, behind those buildings toward the Codorus Creek, would likely involve more apartment-style housing units.
Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's acting director of economic and community development, told me recently that the city government is working to very soon come to a final contract with the Time Group. When that happens, the six-month "due-diligence" time period starts. At the RDA meeting six months from then, the group has to either submit a formal plan or walk away from the property.
The Baker building: One of the groups that submitted a proposal for the Northwest Triangle land but didn't get it is attempting to buy a different building and convert it into more than 40 apartments.
Tri Corner Homebuilding Solutions is trying to buy the vacant J.E. Baker Co. building at 232 E. Market St. from the recently renamed York County History Center (it was the York County Heritage Trust until, like, Thursday) and turn it into an apartment building. Joshua Juffe, a principal at Tri Corner, told me in May that his company wanted to make the 44,000-square-foot building into 59 units. The city's planning commission was less than enthusiastic about that idea, though — they were concerned about the density and the number of parking spaces for so many people.
So Tri Corner seems to have backed off of that, saying at a recent RDA meeting that the company is now seeking to put the number of units in the 40s. The city's zoning board ultimately will have to vote on whether to give the project the go-ahead.
When I talked to Juffe last month, he said the apartments, a mixture of lofts and one- and two-bedrooms, will run from $795 to more than $1,300.
Elm Terrace: The guys who recently brought York City a refurbished Color Works apartment complex in the Northwest Triangle have moved onto their next project: remodeling the vacant Elm Terrace apartment building at 450 Madison Ave.
Seth Predix, who, along with Jordan Ilyes owns Distinct Property Management, told me they're making the building into a 46-apartment complex with rents around $700 to $850. He said they're planning to start work in July and will take about a year.
Previously, they restored the Color Works building in the 100 block of West Gay Street, which opened its doors to renters in May. The company renovated an old paint factory, turning it into 29 apartments going for $600 to $1,200 a month. All have been leased out, Buffaloe told me a while ago.
Hope Street: And I'll end with something cool I reported on this week. A local guy, Jared Smith, who owns JNS Enterprises Construction, bought a significant chunk of the 400 block of West Hope Street in the city. Smith purchased eight properties in a row on the street for $30,000 from the RDA.
It's six row houses and two grass lots; Smith told me he's going to tear down one of the row houses — it's a blighted property with the big red-and-white X indicating that firefighters won't enter it — rehab the five remaining row houses to either rent or sell and make the three other lots into a parking lot. He told me he's going to move into one of the row houses.
That's going to be a pretty radical change for that block. Right now, it's very largely empty, without a soul to be seen.
Continue in the vein of what what I wrote last week about judging areas by how many times I've covered shootings there, this one's a mixed bag. I've never covered a shooting on that block or any of those immediately surrounding it, but that general part of the west end — Salem Square — is a place where I've covered a bunch of shootings and just general crime. A couple blocks away was where for the first time on the job someone threatened to beat me up simply for daring to be a reporter asking him a question at the scene of a shooting.
So I think this would be great — it seems like Smith would keep an eye on his properties and make sure everything's going well there, so this would be replacing several abandoned buildings with several stable residences.
— Reach Sean Cotter at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SPCotterYD. Look for his news reporting about York City daily online and in print, and keep an eye out for a new installment of this blog every week, or have Facebook keep an eye out for you: Like the Developing Story page.