Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harristown to purchase, renovate historic property that once housed iconic Harrisburg hotel, restaurant

Harristown plans to purchase the historic Fox Hotel, converting it to a small apartment building.

A small but historically important project.

That’s how CEO Brad Jones describes the plan by his company, Harristown Enterprises, to breath life back into the long-empty Fox Hotel in Harrisburg, located at the seam of the downtown and Shipoke neighborhoods.

Jones today confirmed that Harristown expects to purchase the 112-year-old property at S. 2nd and Washington streets from UPMC Pinnacle, turning it into an eight-unit apartment building.

“We’re very interested in preserving the history of that building,” Jones said. “It will become entirely residential.”

Hotelier Otto Fox built the distinctive, cupola-topped, 7,000-square-foot brick structure at 236 S. 2nd St., in 1906. Many Harrisburg residents may best remember the building as home of Santanna’s Seafood House, long one of Harrisburg’s most popular restaurants, which operated on the ground floor starting in the 1930s.

Pinnacle purchased the property in 1987, and it has been mostly empty since. The building has been on Historic Harrisburg Association’s “Preservation Priority” list since 2011, as some grew concerned that it could be razed.

“In terms of preservation, obviously, this is good news,” said historian Jeb Stuart, Historic Harrisburg’s preservation advisor. “We applaud Harristown for this. It is an important part of the built environment in that area.”

Jones said that Harristown and the hospital began discussing a sale last year, following the announcement that a UPMC Pinnacle-affiliated doctor’s office would open inside Strawberry Square, which is owned by Harristown.

Harristown plans to convert all three floors to apartments. The ground floor would become two, two-bedroom, two-bath units of about 800 square feet each. Both the second and third floors would consist of three, one-bedroom apartments measuring about 550 square feet apiece, Jones said.

Rents are expected to range from about $1,000 a month for the one-bedroom units to $1,295 for the two-bedroom units.

The building, Jones said, needs extensive structural repair, as well as a total interior restoration, as it’s been unoccupied for decades. He expects Harristown to invest about $1.4 million into the project.

Jones said he expects to start the project in September, with construction planned to take six to nine months.

Over the last few years, Harristown has bought and renovated numerous rundown and empty buildings downtown, converting them to higher-end apartments. In fact, just today, Harristown closed on the purchase of two buildings downtown—116 Pine St. and 124 Pine St.—both due to become apartment buildings.

Unlike for those buildings, Harristown will not need to file a land use plan for the Fox Hotel conversion, due to its small size, Jones said. So, Harristown, he said, will not require approvals from the city’s Zoning Hearing Board and City Council.


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