After decades of blight and inaction, a historic Harrisburg block is undergoing a rapid transformation, removing an eyesore on a prominent city street and adding new apartments to Midtown.
Currently, three long-dilapidated properties are—or soon will be—under restoration on the 1000-block of N. 6th Street, a highly visible street and one of the last remnants of a once-thriving commercial strip that catered primarily to Harrisburg’s African-American community.
Brothers LeRon and LeSean McCoy, under the name Vice Capital LLC, are renovating 1000 N. 6th St.—at the corner of Boas Street—into a five-unit, market-rate apartment building, with additional retail or community space, according to LeRon.
“We looked around and decided to find a project that would be of benefit to both Harrisburg and ourselves,” he said, in a recent phone interview.
The brothers are Harrisburg natives who played football for Bishop McDevitt High School. LeRon, a retired wide receiver, played professionally for the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans, while LeSean, a former Philadelphia Eagle, is currently a running back for the Buffalo Bills.
LeRon McCoy said that building, also known as the Swallow Mansion and, later, the Curtis Funeral Home, is an investment for the pair.
“LeSean and I have a desire to develop in Harrisburg,” he said. “It’s something he’s been wanting to do for a long time.”
Last year, the circa-1896, corner building suffered a partial collapse, with bricks and debris spilling onto the sidewalk on the Boas Street side. The collapse seemed to prompt long-time owner, Annette Antoun, to finally part with the property.
Antoun bought it in 2000 from the Historic Harrisburg Association, believing it would become part of former Mayor Steve Reed’s plan to develop the block as an African-American history museum. However, that museum was never built and, over the years, the building remained boarded up and increasingly dilapidated.
LeRon said he expects the project to be completed by year-end.
“It will be high end,” he said. “We want that area to look as nice as it used to.”
Right next door, at 1002 N. 6th St., a company called LBR Properties has begun to renovate that long-neglected building, which Antoun had owned for 35 years. The company is building out three apartments—two one-bedroom units and a “large studio”—as well as a small retail space on the first floor, according to co-owner Rani Rammouni.
“We’re gutting it and bringing it up to par,” he said, expecting the project to be completed in about two months. “We want to bring them as close to class-A as possible. We’ll have all the upgrades a class-A would have.”
Rammouni said that the block was ripe for redevelopment considering all the development in Midtown over the past decade, as well as its proximity to the Capitol complex.
“It’s positioned so well with the commonwealth right there,” he said.
Next to that building is the beloved burger and sandwich restaurant, the Jackson House, and next to that, at 1006 N. 6th St., sits the “Jackson Hotel,” a former hotel and boarding house that once catered to African-American patrons who were denied service in Harrisburg’s white-only hotels.
Harrisburg Commercial Interiors bought that building last year, and company owner Matt Long said that his company will begin demolition work in September.
The Jackson Hotel has been empty and boarded up since long-time owner German Jackson died in 1998. In recent years, the building’s roof caved in, and the back of the building has collapsed.
Nonetheless, Long expects to fully rebuild and restore the property. Last month, the Harrisburg Architectural Review Board gave Long permission to perform extensive rehabilitation work, including rebuilding the rear portion of the building and installing a new roof, new windows, new floors and other improvements.
When complete, the 3,420-square-foot building will consist of four apartments, with commercial space on the first floor, Long said. Notably, the large mural, which features African-American entertainers and historic figures, some of whom stayed at the hotel, will be preserved.
“I’ve seen these buildings boarded up for as long as I’ve been here,” Long said, adding that he tried to buy the Swallow Mansion from Antoun some 14 years ago. “But they just sat and sat and sat. Now, the time is right.”
Ted Hanson, a Boas Street resident since 1978, said that he’s waited decades for the 6th Street properties to be redeveloped.
“This finally has come to pass now that Steve Reed and Annette Antoun are out of the picture,” he said. “Forces are aligning that some needed development is happening there.”
Long’s company is also performing the restoration work on the Swallow Mansion/Curtis Funeral Home for the McCoys. LeRon McCoy said that he hired Long after seeing the work his company did to rebuild another tumbledown structure—the long-dilapidated building at North and Susquehanna streets that soon will be the new home of Elementary Coffee Co.
McCoy said that he and his brother have an even grander vision for the block, which would result in dozens of new apartments.
They want to purchase the Jackson Hotel property from Long and then build a new, larger, market-rate apartment building next to it at the corner of N. 6th and Herr streets, property currently owned by Bethel AME Church. That lot has been empty since the church burned down in 1995.
McCoy said that they’re currently in talks to buy that property from the church.
“This is all part of a larger project we’re working on,” McCoy said. “We have a vision for that block.”
For more detailed history about this block, read our award-winning feature story from 2013.