Harrisburg will hold public sessions on its proposed new zoning code on Wednesday and Thursday. The letter below was sent to City Council and the mayor yesterday, written by the president of the company that, several years ago, bought the former post office building at 815 Market St. The author allowed us to reprint his letter here. For more background on the zoning changes, please see our story from last week.
I am writing in regard to the Proposed Zoning Code and Map that shall be considered by the Harrisburg City Council in public hearings on June 25 and June 26, 2014 and a potential Council vote on July 8, 2014.
An affiliated investment company of our firm is the owner of the former Keystone Branch Post Office Building at 815 Market St., encompassing a 200,000-plus-square-foot building and 11 acres of land adjacent to the Harrisburg Transportation Center. The proposed changes to the Zoning Code and Map were first raised nearly a decade ago at the end of the Reed administration and are now proposed for expedited approval.
We are supportive of the concept of a new ordinance for the city. However, the proposed Zoning Code and Map absolutely fail to acknowledge the hard work by our firm that has occurred since the time that this plan was first brought forth. NONE of the various uses that we have put into place at 815 Market St. over the past several years are listed as Permitted Uses under the proposed changes and, furthermore, the clear industrial bones of our property were not taken into account in pushing this new ordinance ahead.
Our progress and efforts were not, unfortunately, considered in the recent decision to advance this revised Zoning Code and Map. Our efforts over the past several years have been quiet, but successful! We have been working very hard to turn around 815 Market St. and make it a productive asset for the City of Harrisburg. In doing so, 815 Market St. has not become another addition to the sea of vacant and dilapidated buildings in our immediate neighborhood. We have expanded and incubated various growing businesses at the property that have decided to remain in Industrially Zoned property within the City of Harrisburg.
New tenants that have moved into our renovated 815 Market St. include Exhibit Studios, Restaurant Auction Company, Appalachian Brewery and Tri-County OIC and account for over 70,000 square feet of new occupied space for the City of Harrisburg. Other viable concerns are still considering our project at present. We recently donated space to the city (and several non-profits) for the storage of 80 classic murals saved from the Mulberry Street Bridge project that now are within our building. Recently, we were able to accommodate Volunteers of America (whose building was burned in a horrible fire on Cameron Street).
Our property is also the location of a thriving, 700-space parking business (http://transitpark.com) that is largely populated by (1) City, State and Federal workers and other downtown employees looking for affordable monthly parking and (2) customers of the Harrisburg Transportation Center. We have developed a very close relationship with Amtrak in this venture. Our lot improvements, new state-of-the-art parking equipment, video cameras, new signage, validation kiosks within the Amtrak station, local advertising and Internet search engine optimization have helped us excel.
As indicated above, the proposed City Zoning and Map changes that are, by the city’s own admission, a “stepping stone” to future Comprehensive Planning studies, do not list any of our actual current property uses. Various industrial and parking uses are not part of the “Downtown Center” zone proposed for our property. Our entire project could become some odd “pre-existing non-conforming use”… despite our new industrial tenants, 40 dock doors, excellent ceiling heights, high-capacity freight elevators, large truck court, etc. This is trouble we do not need or deserve and will make it more difficult for us to continue our good work. We obviously are serving numerous businesses that want to remain and conduct commerce in the city. Our progress cited above is proof positive.
We respectfully ask for your consideration of these points and hope that the proposed Zoning Ordinance and Map changes will be modified to allow all of our current permitted uses to continue as permitted in the future. We made a significant investment in the city at a time when others were fleeing from it during the height of the “Great Recession” and while the city was in a dire financial crisis. It is hard enough for us to attract new companies and retain businesses to the city without additional roadblocks.
Adam P. Meinstein
Equilibrium Equities, Inc. (www.equilibriumequities.com)