Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

More apartments headed to downtown Harrisburg, as office-to-residential conversion approved

Harristown received city approval on Tuesday to convert this brick building to apartments.

More apartments are headed to downtown Harrisburg, as a split City Council on Tuesday approved Harristown’s latest building plan.

By a 4-3 vote, council approved a proposal to convert a Market Square office building to residential use.

“The land development plan is in compliance with all rules and regulations,” said council member Dave Madsen, before the vote.

Some council members have expressed a desire to include lower-income housing in this project. Madsen said that he sympathized with the need for affordable housing in Harrisburg, but that, as it stands, the city has no grounds for denying the project.

South Second Associates LLC, a development group led by Harristown Enterprises, plans to build out 30 one- and two-bedroom units from the former home of the Skarlatos Zonarich law firm, which has relocated to Strawberry Square. Rents are expected to range from $1,100 to $1,400 a month, depending on square footage and the numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms.

The developers originally planned to retain the building for offices, but couldn’t find an anchor tenant, which led to a change to residential use.

As she has previously, council President Wanda Williams objected to the project and voted against it, joined in opposition by council members Ausha Green and Danielle Bowers.

Williams said she that, for years, she has urged Harristown to meet with the city or with such entities as the Harrisburg Housing Authority to include units that would meet some undefined standard of affordable housing.

“I informed you three or fours years ago that I want to see a percentage for inclusionary or affordable housing,” Williams said, directing her comments to Harristown CEO Brad Jones.

Council member Shamaine Daniels, however, said that the city shouldn’t expect a specific developer to provide affordable housing when the city itself lacks an affordable housing statute. In fact, she placed blame on council itself for inaction on the issue.

“The leadership really comes from council or the mayor,” she said. “I think it’s unfair to hold individuals responsible for lack of leadership on our own part.”

At a council meeting last week, Williams said that she expected to introduce an affordable housing ordinance later this year.

Over the past several years, Harristown has invested tens of millions of dollars to convert substandard, often vacant, downtown office space into new, market-rate apartments. In fact, it currently is signing leases in three buildings that total 82 new units–a small building on S. 2nd Street and two larger buildings on Pine Street.

Jones said that he expects the renovation of the Market Square building, located at 17 S. 2nd St., to begin this spring and be completed early next year.

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