A Harrisburg resident has his eye on one of the last dilapidated commercial buildings in Midtown, with plans to turn it into a small apartment building.
Nathaniel Foote has a contract to buy the former Gerber’s Department Store—also known as the “Carpets and Draperies” building for the sign on the front façade—on the 1500-block of N. 3rd Street.
His plan calls for a five-unit apartment building, along with first-floor commercial space, in the 4,800-square-foot, three-story brick structure.
“I live in the neighborhood,” he said. “I want to see the property restored.”
Foote is an attorney who owns two duplexes in Midtown and, along with his father, a parking facility. He said that his interest in the building arose simply from walking past it nearly every day, so that eventually he called the listing agent for the property.
“I’m not an out-of-town developer looking to make a buck,” he said, estimating that construction will cost about $500,000. “The cost is substantial given the number of units you can get out of it.”
Schnecksville, Pa.-based Mussani & Matz Co. has owned the century-old building since 2007, but it’s sat empty and increasingly blighted for most of that time. It’s been on the sales market for the last few years.
Six years ago, two Harrisburg residents proposed turning the building into a craft distillery, but that project was abandoned after it failed to gain approval of the city’s Zoning Hearing Board.
Foote said that he’s encouraged by a spate of development proposals for the immediate area. Over the past year, several developers have proposed projects for the Reily Street corridor, but none have broken ground yet.
Foote’s plan calls for all two-bedroom units, which would range in size from 750 to 2,000 square feet, along with a 1,000-square-foot commercial space on the ground floor. He expects that he would live in the largest unit on the third floor.
Rents would range from about $1,000 a month to about $1,400 a month, he said, depending on unit size.
Currently, Foote expects to put the project on the agenda for the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board for their February meetings. If the project gains city approval, he hopes to start construction in March for completion by year-end.
The interior is gutted, so it would need to be completely rebuilt, Foote said. He plans for Harrisburg Commercial Interiors to do the construction.
“It’s basically a big shell right now,” he said.
The notable “Carpets and Draperies” sign would be restored as part of the project, he said.
The building does not have its own off-street parking, but is surrounded by surface parking lots. Foote said that he expects to lease parking spaces from one of the lot owners.
“I think it’s very much in the cards that we will have a solid plan for parking,” he said.