Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bringing It Back: Long-blighted buildings marked for renovation in downtown Harrisburg.

The blighted exteriors of 254 and 256 North St., Harrisburg.

There’s an old saying in real estate that one should try to buy the worst property in the best neighborhood.

By that measure, Matt Krupp would seem like a savvy buyer, as he recently purchased two terribly blighted, yet well-located and widely recognized buildings in downtown Harrisburg.

On March 14, Krupp, the Dauphin County prothonotary, closed on the purchase of 254 and 256 North St., and, this week, began the long process of clearing out and stabilizing the Civil War-era, brick-and-clapboard buildings.

Krupp lives just across the street from them and, decided that, since no one else seemed interested in taking on the costly rehabilitation, he would do it. So, he purchased the two buildings from the Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority, which owned them for nearly 11 years, for $34,300.

“If you go up and down North Street, these are the only remaining, boarded-up buildings on the block,” he said. “It got to me living next to them for four years.”

The buildings sit on an otherwise-charming, tree-lined block, home to such restaurants as Mangia Qui, Rubicon and Home 231, and just down the street from the state Capitol complex. Nonetheless, they’ve been vacant for decades, marred by graffiti, holes, shattered glass, peeling paint and boarded-up windows.

The two, two-story buildings, which together total about 3,000 square feet of interior space, have first-floor commercial areas with apartments on the second floor and parking in the rear. The corner building at 256 North St. once housed an upscale, reservation-only French restaurant called The Coventry, which closed around 1990. The Redevelopment Authority took possession of the buildings in 2007.

“Because of where they sit, I was surprised that nobody had bought them after all this time,” Krupp said.

Amid piles of trash, one of the buildings still shows signs of when it was a French restaurant, more than 25 years ago.

Krupp expects a two-year turnaround for the project. The first year, he said, will be devoted to shoring up the structures to ensure they’re safe and dry. Much of the renovation work will take place the second year, he said.

He said that he doesn’t expect any changes to the buildings’ historic uses, with expectations that a small business, such as a law firm or lobbying firm, will take the first-floor commercial space.

David Morrison, executive director of Historic Harrisburg Association, applauded the purchase, saying that HHA was about to place the buildings on its annual “Preservation Priority” list, as they were considered endangered.

“This is great to finally see,” Morrison said. “They’re high-profile buildings on a street that gets a lot of visitation.”

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