Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

March News Digest

Free Evening Parking

Free parking could come to downtown Harrisburg as early as this month, as City Council passed a resolution that would offset street parking costs after 5 p.m.

Council agreed unanimously last month to join Dauphin County and the Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District (HDID) in ponying up money to offset parking revenues that operator Park Harrisburg would lose between 5 and 7 p.m.

“I think it’s a boost for the city,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said. “I think it will lead to more people visiting downtown.”

Harrisburg’s contribution will amount to $110,000 over the next year and will come from money that the parking system already owes the city, said Papenfuse. The county has also pledged $110,000, and HDID will pay $50,000.

The county and HDID had hoped for a three-year deal, though council approved just a one-year test period.

By entering into the “memorandum of understanding,” the three entities—the city, county and HDID—must finalize the exchange with the parking system operator. Papenfuse has said he expects no pushback, as the system operator, SP+/Park Harrisburg, and its asset manager, Trimont, just want to ensure that contributions offset lost revenue, which, last year, amounted to $270,000 between 5 and 7 p.m.

Papenfuse said the parking subsidy could kick in as soon as April, but may take longer.

Since 2014, the city has tried several tactics to mitigate the cost of street parking. First, the Papenfuse administration convinced the system’s operators to lower the “happy hour” rate from $3 to $2 an hour between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. It later turned many of downtown’s loading zones into 15-minute free parking areas.

Nonetheless, downtown bar and restaurant owners continued to complain about a loss of business, which they largely blame on high parking rates.

If implemented, the plan would come with some conditions. First, it would apply only to street, not garage, parking. Secondly, it would take effect only within the HDID boundaries, which run downtown from State to Chestnut streets.

Loan Fund Launches

Whether you’re a shop owner looking to expand your storefront or an aspiring entrepreneur with a business dream, you may benefit from a new loan fund that launched last month in Harrisburg.

Impact Harrisburg is partnering with the Community First Fund and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to launch the Harrisburg Business Opportunity Fund (HBOF) with $1 million in seed money, according to Sheila Dow Ford, executive director of Impact Harrisburg.

Impact Harrisburg, which was founded with proceeds from the sale of Harrisburg’s incinerator, will contribute $350,000 to the fund. The Pennsylvania Housing and Financing Authority has pledged $650,000 through its nonprofit subsidiary, the Commonwealth Cornerstone Group.

Loans will be available to small, for-profit business owners or aspiring business owners in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $100,000. According to Dow Ford, the goal of the fund is to encourage economic development, job creation and a diverse workforce in the city of Harrisburg.

“We’re providing for a segment of the population that has, for various reasons, been overlooked by traditional lending institutions,” she said.

Any for-profit business or startup in Harrisburg can apply for a loan, Dow Ford said, though real estate trusts or businesses that buy and sell property will not be eligible.

The new fund bears some resemblance to Harrisburg’s old revolving loan fund, which was launched in 1984 and languished in the 2000s as many borrowers became delinquent.

Dow Ford acknowledged that some HBOF loans might be considered risky by traditional lending standards, since they will be issued to people and ventures that might be denied by traditional lenders. However, she hopes that the partnership with Community First Fund will prevent the same mismanagement and delinquency that plagued the city’s revolving loan fund.

Superintendent Search Begins

The Harrisburg School District is putting up a help wanted sign, but there won’t necessarily be a personnel change in its highest office.

In a 5-4 vote, the Harrisburg School Board decided last month to accept applications for the position of superintendent. The vote means that if current Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney wishes to stay in her post, she must apply for her job and beat out other candidates.

The vote came after more than an hour of spirited public comment at last month’s school board meeting, as near-equal numbers of district residents encouraged the board to vote for or against a resolution to initiate the hiring process.

Residents who supported renewing Knight-Burney’s contract emphasized the importance of consistent leadership during the district’s recovery process. Those who called for an open hiring process said that the district deserved to consider candidates who might make more dramatic gains in student achievement.

Knight-Burney became Harrisburg’s superintendent in 2011. Since 2013, she’s been responsible for implementing the actions in a state-crafted recovery plan, which outlined almost 100 initiatives to improve the district’s academics and operations.

Her current contract, which was renewed in 2014, expires on June 30. Asked if she would reapply for her job, Knight-Burney declined to comment.


Act 47 Status Considered

“The clock is ticking” on the next step in Harrisburg’s path to financial recovery.

That’s the message that a state official had for Harrisburg’s administration and City Council last month, as both bodies were briefed on the timeline for the city’s remaining six months in the state’s Act 47 program for distressed municipalities.

Marita Kelley, Harrisburg’s Act 47 coordinator, appeared at a council work session to explain the city’s duties before Act 47 status expires on Sept. 23.

Here’s what lies ahead, according to Kelley. The mayor and the city clerk will receive a financial condition report, prepared by Kelley and the Pennsylvania Economy League. A public meeting on its contents should take place this month.

After the meeting, she and the Pennsylvania Economy League will have 90 days to prepare a final exit plan for the city. In that plan, they’ll make a formal recommendation for what the city should do in September: extend its Act 47 status, exit the program or enter the oversight of a state-appointed receiver.

The exit plan should arrive before city officials in mid-July. After another round of commenting and a public meeting, Kelley will finalize the exit plan in time for the Sept. 23 expiration deadline.

Kelley thinks it’s highly unlikely that Harrisburg will enter receivership in September. She was hesitant to recommend an action to the city last month, but said during a budget meeting in December that Harrisburg will likely spend another three years in the program, at least.


Reports Released for Train Station, Paxton Creek

A restaurant and café in Harrisburg’s train station, a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, a flood-controlled Paxton Creek.

Those are a few of the ambitious goals laid out in two reports released last month by the state Department of Transportation, which is taking the lead on rehabilitating the blighted Market Street corridor just east of the Harrisburg Transportation Center, roughly from the train station to Cameron Street.

“These studies serve as a road map to help the city continue to develop as an attractive place to work and play,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

PennDOT’s first priority is rehabilitation of the train/bus station itself, set out in a report titled, “Harrisburg Transportation Center Transit Oriented Development Master Plan.”

That project includes removal of the large office space in the main lobby, the addition of an “open-concept café” in the lobby, new seating in the station concourse, the addition of a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, a new entry plaza from the lower-level Market Street entrance and the addition of office space on the upper floors.

According to Richards, work is expected to begin relatively soon, as the department has completed 90 percent of the design for the $15 million renovation and is now working with Amtrak on a construction schedule.

The next priority is a massive flood control project designed to restrain, improve and restore Paxton Creek, as delineated in the “Paxton Creek Master Plan.”

The plan outlines steps to modify the channel size and make other improvements that would take 133 acres out of the 100-year flood plan and partially remove another 275 acres, making the area far more attractive for redevelopment. The plan also envisions enhancing the creek area with recreational paths and restoring it to a more natural environment.

PennDOT anticipates four to five years of preliminary work before construction on the project could begin. The estimated cost of the creek improvements is $60 to $90 million, with potential grants coming from the state’s Multimodal Fund, the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The transportation master plan envisions other projects, which include:

  • Streetscaping and façade enhancement, including new sidewalks, landscaping, street furniture, signage and utility and lighting poles.
  • A pedestrian bridge that would extend the station concourse over the railroad tracks, through the former Harrisburg central post office and into the redevelopment area.
  • Relocation of the intercity bus terminal from Market Street to the redevelopment area and expansion of the facility.
  • Development of the area near an east entrance to the station.
  • A new plaza on Market Street.

“These projects will provide exciting opportunities for development in the city of Harrisburg, and for enhancing the quality of life for our residents,” Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with PennDOT on projects that will benefit not only Harrisburg residents but the entire region.”

New Districts Upheld

Pennsylvania’s redrawn congressional districts withstood two court challenges last month, clearing the way for some areas, including the Harrisburg area, to be unified under new district lines.

First, a three-judge federal panel threw out a Republican-led challenge to the new district map. The same day, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a Republican request for an emergency stay that would block use of the new map in this year’s elections.

As a result, the state Supreme Court’s redrawn district map will stand. This includes a new 10th congressional district that encompasses all of Dauphin County and parts of Cumberland and York counties, including Harrisburg, York and Carlisle.

The primary election is slated for May 15.

Gaming Grants Given

The Dauphin County commissioners shelled out some $6 million to dozens of projects last month in the annual disbursal of gaming grant money.

The commissioners spread the money around to municipalities throughout the county, with the largest sums, by state law, going to those nearest to the Hollywood Casino at Penn National in Grantville.

In and around Harrisburg, grants to governments included:

* City of Harrisburg: $229,724 for police equipment, the engineering bureau and for Fire Bureau dive team equipment

* Susquehanna Township: $159,900 for sanitary sewer system extension, for Progress Fire Co. vehicle replacement and for Wedgewood Hills Swim Club heat pump installation

* Lower Paxton Township: $82,825 for Devon Manor pool improvements, Koon’s pool improvements and Ranger and George Park soccer upgrades

* Hummelstown: $58,471 for municipal building debt service

* Highspire: $57,200 for roadway rehabilitation

* Steelton: $43,000 for Fire Department apparatus and Skate Park debt reduction

* Swatara Township: $13,000 for Police Department K-9 and training

Grants to Dauphin County entities included:

* MDJ Court Administration: $200,000 for construction of MDJ buildings

* Dauphin County Industrial Development Authority: $137,000 for solar farm project debt reduction

* Dauphin County Parks & Recreation: $101,000 for Detweiler Park master plan and Fort Hunter Station planning project

* Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority: $100,000 for a project on the former State Hospital grounds

* Dauphin County Land Bank Authority: $100,000 for renovation of vacant homes

Grants to organizations included:

* Camp Curtin YMCA: $100,000 for conversion of an indoor pool into a recreational area

* Central Dauphin School District: $75,600 for a school safety improvement project

* Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg: $75,000 for an emergency generator project

* Penn FC (Harrisburg City Islanders): $72,562 for a field conversion project

* Humane Society of Harrisburg Area: $70,000 for an expansion of veterinary services

* Salvation Army: $50,000 for a new headquarters and services facility

* Harrisburg Rugby Food Club: $50,000 for Perseverance Field improvements

* Homeland Center: $40,000 for an emergency generator project

* The Nativity School: $40,000 for furniture purchase and building renovations

* Open Stage of Harrisburg: $32,000 for facility and equipment upgrades

* Capital Region Literacy Corp.: $30,000 for books in schools and clinic program

* Habitat for Humanity: $28,000 for weatherization project

* Heinz Menaker Senior Center: $25,000 for ADA-compliant restrooms

* Midtown Action Council: $13,652 for historic marker renovation and expansion

* Beacon Clinic: $5,000 for HVAC installation and renovations

More Downtown Apartments

More apartments appear headed for downtown Harrisburg, though it may be awhile before you’ll be able to move into one.

Harrisburg City Council last month introduced a resolution that would allow Harristown Enterprises to convert a circa-1952 office building to a 25-unit apartment building with commercial space on the first floor.

The building, at 124 Pine St., currently houses Keystone Human Services, which would seek new space following a sale, said Harristown CEO Brad Jones.

Keystone currently has the six-story, 30,000-square-foot building on the market for $1.5 million.

Over the past few years, Harristown has converted several downtown office buildings to higher-end apartments, most recently at the corner of N. 2nd and Cranberry streets. That 12-unit building, Jones said, has been renamed “The Bogg on Cranberry.”

The Pine Street project, he said, would consist of 18 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units that would range from about 700 to 850 square feet in size. Jones said that he expects rents to be about $1,095 to $1,395 a month. The project includes 19 off-street parking spaces, which would be rented separately.

If Harristown gets City Council approval, the company hopes to close on a building purchase in May. Jones, however, expects that Keystone will then lease the building back until it can find a new home, meaning that renovation work probably won’t begin until early 2019.

So Noted

Blake Lynch was named Harrisburg’s new community policing coordinator last month. In this position, Lynch, formerly director of development at the Boys and Girls Club of Harrisburg, will serve as a liaison between the city’s Police Bureau and the community.

Club XL is set to open this month near S. Cameron and Hanna streets in an industrial area of Harrisburg. Owner Phil Dobson said the 18,500-square-foot nightclub and concert venue will feature a large stage, a sophisticated light and sound system and an exterior patio, among other amenities.

Gamut Theatre Group this month plans to begin the second phase of the build-out of its building in downtown Harrisburg. The Gamut Theatre Education Center will include the Alexander Grass Second Stage, two renovated classrooms and other areas for students to learn various aspects of theater operations. The $700,000 project should be completed by August, according to Gamut.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is making plans to open in the newly constructed Hershey Towne Square on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey. The company expects the 9,000-square-foot space to be ready late this year or early next year.

Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority announced last month that Robert “Bob” Zorbaugh will replace Jim Warner as CEO when Warner retires at year-end. Zorbaugh, the current chief operating officer, has served with LCSWMA, which owns Harrisburg’s waste-to-energy incinerator, since 1990.

PSECU last month announced the planned retirement of President Greg Smith, effective February 2019. Smith has served with the credit union for nearly 30 years.

Right on Reily is slated to open late this month in restaurant space across the street from Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg. Owner Dylan Simon said he plans to open at 7 a.m. and will feature freshly made breakfast items, sandwiches, soups and salads from the eatery at 263 Reily St.

Theatre Harrisburg last month announced the departure of its executive director, Allison Graham Hays, who served in the post for about one year. A search for a new director has begun. Those interested should send a resume and cover letter to

Changing Hands

Adrian St., 2421: J. Howard to L. Brown, $69,900

Berryhill St., 2216: PA Deals LLC to A. & L. Smith, $64,900

Boas St., 111: P. & M. Keelen to J. Swope, $67,000

Boas St., 409: A. Antoun to P. Cannon & M. Hertrich, $84,000

Boas St., 1910: Dobson Family Limited to M. Cardona & S. Guzman, $36,000

Duke St., 2433: 2013 Central PA Real Estate Fund LLC to S. Henry, $65,900

Evergreen St., 17: E. Ordonez to P. Paniagua, $40,000

Fulton St., 1625: Z. & H. Khan to J. Seibert, $125,750

Fulton St., 1722: Wilmington Savings Fund & Society FSB to PA Deals LLC, $77,500

Green St., 2322: Lake Como REI LLC to Lynn & Ryan Investment Properties LLC, $36,000

Hale Ave., 383: 2013 Central PA Real Estate Fund LLC to S. Henry, $65,000

Hale Ave., 403: O. Peck to C. & A. Bullock, $71,000

Harris St., 204: G. Olives to A. Hermany & T. Minnick, $149,900

Holly St., 1916: W. Aikens Jr. to R. & B. Cook, $43,000

Hummel St., 243: Tri County HDC Ltd. to B. Dixon, $69,900

Kensington St., 2267: M. Eismann to Blackfoot Viking LLC, $40,000

Kensington St., 2328: 2013 M&M Real Estate Fund LLC to S. Henry, $65,900

Market St., 1028: J. & A. Karagiannis to R. Luu, J. Son & KS Property Management LLC, $250,000

Market St., 1800: G. Walker to Horizon Trust FBO, Timothy Carter IRA, $105,000

Mayflower St., 1366: G. Vargas to D. Tellado, $60,000

N. 2nd St., 221: CJ2 Group LLC to Second and Cranberry LLC, $350,000

N. 2nd St., 2338: H. Witte & A. Atkinson to V. Paredes, $95,000

N. 3rd St., 3218: T. & B. Seely to S. Dudek, $139,900

N. 4th St., 1911: K. & D. Fletcher to M. DeMeo, $73,900

N. 5th St., 1948: L. Blanton to B. & K. Feidt, $73,500

N. 5th St., 2554: J. Johnson to D. Mallek & W. Sarris, $60,000

N. 5th St., 3201: Branch Banking and Trust Co. to F. Nestico, $80,000

N. 15th St., 2: R. Sharma & N. Saini to D&F Realty Holdings LP, $100,000

N. 15th St., 1425: Top Notch Properties LLC to B. Wevodau Sr., $30,000

S. 24th St., 563: Lake Como REI LLC to Lynn & Ryan Investment Properties LLC, $65,000

Parkway Blvd., 2509: Harrisburg Rentals LLC to A. & L. Smith, $118,500

Peffer St., 321: K. Whitehead to V. Robinson, $74,000

Penn St., 1504: R. Davis to D. & M. Witwer, $70,000

Penn St., 1612: A. La Luz to N. Giustra, $140,000

Race St., 552: G. & K. Nguyen to A. & H. Appleberry, $144,000

Revere St., 1722: R. Brunstetter to Top Unit Properties LLC, $80,000

Rolleston St., 1153: A. Phillips to C. Suriel, $43,000

Rudy Rd., 2492: HT Properties LLC to W. Marca, $59,000

Rumson Dr., 2899: S. Markowitz to M. Gleason, $58,000

S. 14th St., 1404: S. McMurray to City of Harrisburg, $47,000

S. 14th St., 1409: V. Brice to City of Harrisburg, $48,000

S. 14th St., 1411: DRW Properties LLC to City of Harrisburg, $50,000

S. 14th St., 1412: M. Hudson to City of Harrisburg, $53,000

S. 14th St., 1420: S. Crittenden to City of Harrisburg, $52,500

S. 14th St., 1436: J. Newhouse to City of Harrisburg, $49,000

S. 14th St., 1441: W. & B. Hornung to City of Harrisburg, $39,000

S. 14th St., 1442: Blue Real Estate LLC to City of Harrisburg, $51,000

S. River St., 315: Red Realty LLC & D. Shearer to J. & S. Bachman, $109,000

State St., 1713: D. Schneider to J. Virbitsky, $85,000

Susquehanna St., 1622: R. & G. Harris to H. Maierle & C. Kostelecky, $134,500

Susquehanna St., 1704 & 1706: J. Shoop to N. Lotze & A. Anderson, $122,000

Sycamore St., 1421: G. Neff to C. Pizarro, $35,000

Waldo St., 2627: PA Deals LLC to S. Henry, $54,000

Wyeth St., 1413: M. & J. Boyer to J. Hegarty, $105,000

Harrisburg property sales for February 2018, greater than $30,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.

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