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EDITORIAL: Plan for Baker building looks promising
Twenty years ago, urban policy expert David Rusk unveiled his well-known, and equally well-regarded, “Rusk Report.”
The comprehensive assessment drew a number of conclusions, but its most important was likely the following:
“Suburban sprawl, concentrated poverty and fiscal disparities are eroding York County's quality of life.”
In the past two decades, some progress has been made to improve the quality of life in the York area, but there's no doubt that more must yet be done. All you need to do is read the York Dispatch reports. Hardly a day goes by without a story about some act of violence within our community.
There's no doubt that “concentrated poverty” is a huge factor behind the violence that plagues our city, county and country.
Fortunately, however, we received some good news on that front recently when the York City Planning Commission unanimously voted to give preliminary approval to a plan to turn the empty Baker building into dozens of apartments.
Why is that good news?
Well, there are couple of reasons.
First, it's never good to have an empty building in the city, but it's especially concerning when that building is located just blocks from the city's heart of Continental Square. The Baker building is at 232 E. Market St. Under the proposal, the exterior of the building will undergo little change, but the inside will be overhauled.
Additionally, the 43 apartments planned for the Baker building will offer a wide variety of rental prices. The one- and two-bedroom units, ranging from 560 square feet to 1,080 square feet, are expected to offer rents from $560 to $1,300 per month.
That's a fairly broad scale of pricing options, and that's good thing — a very good thing. That kind of pricing should attract folks from disparate socioeconomic backgrounds into the building and into downtown.
It may be a small step to alleviate the “concentrated poverty” problem referred to in the Rusk Report
The Baker building plan is very similar to what was done with the Keystone Color Works building at 175 Gay St., which is just several blocks north and west from the Baker building.
Color Works is a 29-unit apartment building that opened in May with rents ranging from $600 to $1,200 per month. Like the Baker building, it was another old structure that was refitted into units geared toward young professionals. It quickly filled up.
Hopefully, the Baker building will be a similar success.
It should be noted, however, that the Baker plan is not universally hailed. In fact, a number of neighbors are concerned the refurbished building will bring crime, congestion and parking woes. Their worries are legitimate and should not be dismissed.
Still, taken in total, the pros of the plan seem to outweigh the cons.
York City Treasurer Joe Jefcoat, who lives a block away, said he believes the plan would have a positive effect on the area.
“I think it would lower crime,” he said, because there would be more people walking around the neighborhood.
The Baker proposal is scheduled to be put before the city's zoning hearing board on Thursday, July 21. That board would do well to give its stamp of approval.