Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

September News Digest


Stop Signs, Charging Stations for 3rd Street

Harrisburg will retain two of four stop signs on N. 3rd Street that were threatened with removal until City Council can make a final decision on their fate.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said last month that his administration has decided to retain the stop signs at Emerald and Kelker streets, but remove them at Harris and Boyd streets.

These are temporary measures until the 3rd Street corridor project is complete, Papenfuse said. At that time, council will have the option of making a final decision on the signs by changing the city’s traffic control map.

“The traffic control map will come to City Council for approval once the project is done,” Papenfuse said.

In early August, residents along the corridor were surprised to learn that the city planned to remove stop signs on N. 3rd Street at those four intersections. Soon after, numerous residents appeared at a council meeting to protest the removal.

At the Harris and Boyd street intersections, the stop signs will be replaced with yield signs. A pedestrian crosswalk also will be added at Harris Street.

“I agree with Boyd,” said Councilman Westburn Majors. “I’m concerned about Harris Street because there’s the senior living building there.”

Papenfuse added that the 3rd Street project unexpectedly will extend into next year for the downtown area south of Forster Street for two principal reasons.

First, Harrisburg University has requested a work stoppage at S. 3rd and Chestnut streets until it removes its heavy equipment from the immediate area as part of the construction of its 17-story academic tower and hotel.

Secondly, the city has received a $40,000 state Department of Environmental Protection grant to install eight electric vehicle charging stations in front of the State Museum. The installation of the electrical infrastructure will delay completion of the project in that area, Papenfuse said.

Moreover, the city plans to complete the sidewalk-widening project around the state Capitol. About eight years ago, the sidewalk around the Capitol on Walnut Street and most of N. 3rd Street was widened. However, the project wasn’t completed, leaving the original, narrow concrete strip in place from North to State streets. That sidewalk now will be widened, as well, finishing the walkway.

Harrisburg Adopts Artsfest

When Jump Street announced it was shutting down, many Harrisburg residents wondered who would run the city’s beloved Artsfest celebration.

Now we know, as the city has opted to take the event in-house.

For 2020, Megan Roby, the city’s director of special events, will take the lead in organizing Artsfest, the long-running, three-day, arts-focused celebration along the city waterfront, said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“The city is taking on Artsfest for next year because no one else has stepped up,” he said.

Artsfest takes place in Riverfront Park each Memorial Day weekend, attracting more than 200 art exhibitors and vendors, as well as thousands of visitors. Several years ago, the nonprofit arts group, Jump Street, took over the event from long-time organizer, the Greater Harrisburg Arts Council. However, Jump Street now is dissolving.

Papenfuse said that adopting Artsfest, in its 53rd year, wasn’t his preferred option, but that he feared that the event wouldn’t happen otherwise.

“We can’t let Artsfest disappear,” he said. “It’s too valuable to the city.”

For one year, the city hopes to hire Melissa Snyder, the long-time executive director of Jump Street, as a consultant. To that end, City Council introduced a resolution last month that, if approved, would pay Snyder $10,000 to help transition the event from Jump Street to the city.

Papenfuse estimates the total cost of Artsfest to be about $100,000. In the end, he expects the city to break even from sponsorships and other event revenue.

The city already organizes the two other big summer events in Riverfront Park—the July 4 Food Truck Festival & Fireworks and the three-day Kipona festival over Labor Day. It also puts on such events as the Fire & Ice Festival in March, the holiday parade in November and the downtown New Year’s Eve celebration.


Ribbon Cut on River Walk

Harrisburg’s deteriorating river walk has been repaved, as the city last month unveiled a ribbon of new concrete running about two miles.

The $1.6 million project laid new concrete along much of the 10,275-linear-foot walk from Shipoke to Maclay Street, though, in a few places, old walk was repaired, not replaced, due to funding restrictions.

The project only replaced the river walk itself, not the stairs leading to the Susquehanna River. Fixing the steps, city Engineer Wayne Martin said, is a massively expensive project, though the city might be able to patch some areas.

The work was funded by a $1.5 million federal Transportation Alternative Program grant, with the city kicking in about $160,000.

At the ribbon-cutting, city officials were joined by a group of bicyclists who took a ceremonial first ride on the newly laid white concrete.

Bike Harrisburg’s Dick Norford explained that the river walk and steps were part of Harrisburg’s City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century, which gave the city numerous parks, as well as paved roads and a functioning sewer system.

In fact, the walk itself came into existence to shield a sewer interceptor, which runs beneath it.

“This is such a vital link because the Greenbelt is not just a beautiful recreational trail,” Norford said. “When a city is more inviting to walking and biking, it’s a better place to work, a better place to live and a better place to play.”

The project actually began several years ago, when the walk along the Shipoke waterfront—badly damaged from the 2011 flood—was replaced. Work kicked in again last fall, took a break for the winter, and started up again in spring.


Superintendent Condemns Voucher Proposal

A top official of the Harrisburg school district has come out strongly against a proposal that would allow city students to use public money to attend private schools.

Last month, the district’s acting superintendent, Dr. John George, called a proposed bill by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) “ill-timed” and said it would “harm the majority of children in the Harrisburg school district.”

Turzai currently is seeking co-sponsors for a proposed bill that would establish a “pilot voucher program” specifically targeted at the Harrisburg school district. It would award “scholarships” of $4,100, which city children could use to attend private or other public schools.

The proposal also calls on the state to contribute another $3,000 in a “tuition grant,” bringing the total to $7,100 per student.

“Speaker Turzai’s proposal is ill-timed and undermines the Financial Recovery Act of 2012, the very legislation for which he advocated,” George said, in a statement. “By removing additional monies from the school district that is already financially distressed, the proposal seriously disrupts the recovery process and wrecks additional havoc, virtually guaranteeing that the district will forever remain in financial distress.”

George further stated that Turzai’s proposal “requires parents to pay a portion of the tuition,” which “may help a few, but it comes at the expense of harming the vast majority.”

“It also only further widens the economic disparity between those who can afford to pay tuition and the poorest of the poor,” he stated.

Turzai began circulating his proposal among lawmakers soon after the school year began in the 6,700-student district. He said that such action was needed given the poor performance among students on state test scores and the fourth-lowest high school graduation rate in the state.

“By allowing Harrisburg families to choose the right education environment for each student, we can finally resolve the decades-long failure to provide an adequate education to Harrisburg children,” Turzai wrote in his memorandum to House members seeking co-sponsors.


Sewer Project Resumes

Capital Region Water is giving its Front Street interceptor project another go, closing a part of Riverfront Park in Uptown Harrisburg until early November.

CRW last month closed the park between Shamokin and Emerald streets until Nov. 9 to install 1,765 feet of new pipe liner, called “cured in place” pipe, which helps prevent failure, sinkholes and leakage.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience during construction as we address our critical and aging infrastructure,” said CEO Charlotte Katzenmoyer in a statement.

The park needs to be shut down in the area due to construction and because aboveground pipes have been installed in the park to bypass water flows during the installation, CRW said.

Last year, CRW closed down the park for several months as it attempted the same project. However, the city utility authority was unable to complete it due to worse-than-expected deterioration of the 105-year-old Front Street interceptor, as well as unexpected utility conflicts, CRW has said.

The 30-inch diameter interceptor carries about 2.3 million gallons of wastewater every day from Harrisburg and Susquehanna Township to the Front Street pump station.

The project will not lead to full road closures on Front Street, but park pedestrians will be detoured across the street until completion.

Commonwealth to Build on D&H Site

When D&H Distributing announced its departure from Harrisburg, many city residents wondered what would replace the company at its longstanding Uptown headquarters.

Now we know.

Last month, the state Department of General Services announced that the commonwealth plans to build a three-story, 120,000-square-foot building to house hundreds of workers displaced from the former Harrisburg State Hospital grounds in Susquehanna Township.

“We are glad to be able to announce the award of this lease that will put nearly 900 employees into a physically and technologically advanced workspace,” said DGS Secretary Curt Topper, in a statement.

In January, D&H announced that it would move to a new office campus in Lower Paxton Township after almost seven decades on the 2500-block of N. 7th Street.

DGS said that the new office building will house employees from the Office of Administration’s Office of Information Technology and the Department of Human Services, including staff from offices of its medical assistance programs, income maintenance, administration, youth and families and its 24/7 ChildLine operations.

Most workers will be relocated from buildings at the former State Hospital, which the state is trying to sell. Some also will relocate from an office building on Herr Street and the Office of Medical Assistance Programs space in Camp Hill.

According to DGS, the state is entering into a build-to-suit lease with Hudson Asset Advisors, which will demolish the low-slung, sprawling D&H building. On the site, it then will build a 120,000-square-foot building with 1,000 parking spaces.

DGS expects to break ground in early 2020, with the first workers moving in during the first quarter of 2021.

DGS did not reveal financial terms, but said that it would once the pricing and terms of the lease are finalized.


Library Buys Historic House, Will Expand

For many years, two prominent parcels on N. Front Street in Harrisburg had common ownership and a shared history.

More than a century ago, those parcels separated, and the building’s side yard became the site of the McCormick Riverfront Library.

Now, those two properties are linked again.

In a recent ceremony, Dauphin County Library System (DCLS) officials announced that they had purchased the original, two-century-old house next door to the McCormick Library, with plans to renovate and turn it into administrative offices.

“This project lets us restore and preserve this historic structure,” said DCLS Executive Director Karen Cullings. “It is one of the oldest buildings in the city.”

Ken Frew, the long-time librarian for the Dauphin County Historical Society, affirmed the historic credentials of the building at 27 N. Front St.

Frew said that Stephen Hills, who came to Harrisburg to construct the original state Capitol, built the Georgian-style house for his own home around 1812. He owned the building for many years, eventually renting it out to Gov. John Schulze, one of a group of houses now known as “Governor’s Row.”

“If I had to compile a list of the top-10 most-historic houses in Harrisburg, this house would be in the top five,” Frew said.

In July, DCLS bought the 5,458-square-foot house for $295,000 from long-time owner, attorney William Balaban.

The library itself sits on land that originally was the side yard to the building, bequeathed by a later owner, Sara Haldeman Haly, who had a garden on the property.

“I am truly honored that we were able to acquire the property that was Sara’s home,” Cullings said.

Cullings said that DCLS was “in the formative stages of the project,” as it still needs to raise money for the substantial renovation.

Once the renovation is done, DCLS plans to move its administrative staff into the house. That will free up space in the library for more family and children’s activities, including STEM and arts-related programming, Cullings said.

Next door, DCLS plans to renovate the house’s first floor for community meetings and events and also will allow public access to the courtyard in the back, she said.

DCLS board President Andrew Enders wrapped up the brief ceremony with a pitch to the community to help the project come to fruition.

“It’s time for the Dauphin County Library System to continue to make our mark on this community,” he said. “But we need your support. Whether it’s your time or your money, we’ll take it.”


Urban Meadow Extension Proposed

Harrisburg hopes to extend an existing walkway by two blocks, offering a landscaped pedestrian link between the new federal courthouse and the heart of Midtown Harrisburg.

The city has applied for a $75,430 grant to PA WalkWorks, a state Department of Health program, to extend the “urban meadow” to N. 6th Street from its current terminus at Fulton Street.

“With the courthouse being built, we would like to see this extension,” confirmed Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

About a decade ago, three blocks of Boyd Street, from N. 3rd to Fulton streets, were transformed from a street alley into a pleasant walkway and bike path with the installation of pavers and native plants.

The project was part of a larger master plan to revitalize the area. In the early 2000s, the city acquired and cleared several blocks of blighted houses and commercial buildings along the 300- and 400-blocks of Reily Street.

The Harrisburg Redevelopment Authority eventually sold these blocks to GreenWorks Development and HACC, and they’re now surface parking lots. Recently, GreenWorks received a $2 million state grant to help fund a $26 million, 135-unit apartment and retail building planned for the 300-block of Reily.

The current urban meadow runs in back of these parcels.

If received, the grant would pay for design work for the two-block extension up Boyd Street to N. 6th Street, making the walkway nearly ¼-mile in total. Papenfuse said the city also is applying for a Dauphin County gaming grant, which would help fund the remainder of the project, including construction.

City Council must ratify the application to PA WalkWorks, though the city has already submitted the application in order to meet an Aug. 30 deadline.


Home Sales, Prices Climb

Both home sales and prices swung up in August in the Harrisburg area, largely due to falling interest rates.

The Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors credited declining mortgage rates for sales that rose 5.3 percent to 720 units compared to the year-ago period. Median sales prices increased by 10.5 percent to $199,500 over the same period, GHAR said.

In Dauphin County, sales totaled 346 units, an increase of 16 units, while the median sales price rose 12.1 percent to $184,900 compared to August 2018, according to GHAR. Cumberland County saw sales go up by 9.7 percent to 350 units, with the median price up by 9.3 percent to $218,500.

Perry County had a decrease in volume, with sales down by 11 units to 24 units compared to the year-ago period, GHAR said. The median sales price also dropped, down 9.5 percent to $153,750.


So Noted

Jason Isbell has put Harrisburg on his upcoming concert tour, scoring a date at the Forum. The Grammy Award-winning Americana/roots icon will play on Dec. 20 as part of the Harrisburg University concert series.

Open Stage of Harrisburg announced last month that it was rebranding simply as “Open Stage” and changed its logo. The changes were made in anticipation of opening its expanded and renovated theater in downtown Harrisburg.

Recycle Bicycle last month moved out of its home of the last four years, the Atlas Street Warehouse in Uptown Harrisburg. The nonprofit wants to purchase a new, permanent home, preferably on Allison Hill, and hopes to make an announcement soon.

Salman Rushdie is returning to Harrisburg in December, with an appearance at Midtown Scholar Bookstore. The world-famous author will speak and sign books to promote his newest novel, “Quichotte.”

Shady McGrady’s is up for sale, joining a number of other long-established bars and restaurants to hit the market in the Harrisburg area. The owners are asking $650,000 for two buildings, plus the liquor license and fixtures. In recent months, several other local institutions have been listed for sale, including the FireHouse Restaurant in Harrisburg and the Glass Lounge in Susquehanna Township.

Two Poodles debuted in the Broad Street Market, selling scratch-made bagels from its stand in the brick building. Owners Bill Weber and Shea Mascia, who reside in Elizabethtown, also sell bagels in York Central Market.

Whitaker Center is turning 20-year-old classroom space into a new, 3,000-square-foot STEM Design Studios in the Harsco Science Center. Très Bonne Année, an annual, wine-focused fundraiser, is underwriting much of the $450,000 cost of the new STEM center.


Changing Hands

Benton St., 512: J. Eldred to V. Doan, $103,000

Briggs St., 1836: BSR Rental Trust to J. Cruz & C. Soto, $69,000

Chestnut St., 2123: T. Barton to T. Allen, $200,000

Cumberland St., 119: S. Pritchard to J. & L. Weigle, $129,000

Delaware St., 262: WCI Partners to A. Hanlon, $114,000

Derry St., 2414: U.S. Bank NA to HT Properties LLC, $36,400

Green St., 1100: B. Smith to D. & K. Rosemarino, $169,900

Green St., 1430: B. Rice to K. Roberts, $148,000

Green St., 1612: B. Brubaker to G. Hoffner, $150,000

Green St., 1710: Federal National Mortgage Association to M. Della Porta, $120,000

Green St., 1920: WCI Partners LP to A. Hanlon, $123,000

Green St., 1935: R. Holder to T. Holder, $200,000

Green St., 2320: M. Chajai to M. Sadi, $31,000

Hale Ave., 444: P. Huynh to MRG Homes LLC, $55,000

Harris St., 414: J. Underhill to Z. Jackson, $107,000

Herr St., 415 & 426 Snipe Al.: J. Foreman to K. Baran & R. Gillis, $62,500

Holly St., 1937: T. Hardison to CR Property LLC, $30,000

Hudson St., 1131: T. Smarsh to M. Hester, $104,000

Hudson St., 1257: R. Madara to R. & N. Purdy, $125,000

Hummel St., 210: Justgeoff Partners LLC to Ice Properties LLC, $51,000

Kensington St., 2142: C. Smith to D. Anderson, $75,000

Lexington St., 2615: A. Oglesby to S. Das, $59,900

N. 2nd St., 402: North Front Associates to N&R Group, $200,000

N. 2nd St., 509: 509 Partners LLC to Pennsylvania School Boards Association Insurance, $335,000

N. 2nd St., 1519: H. Task to T. Kunkle, $224,900

N. 2nd St., 1821: W&P Real Estate Investments to R. Rammouni, $56,000

N. 2nd St., 3115: G. Fiaschetti to C. & C. Harris, $77,900

N. 3rd St., 2331: F. Laoukili & M. Mtere to S. Morton & R. Bushner, $970,000

N. 4th St., 2434: PA Deals to L. & C. Lautsbaugh, $70,000

N. 4th St., 3309: D. Wright to K. Dierolf, $121,000

N. 5th St., 2326: L. Palmer to S. Wolfe, $87,000

N. 5th St., 2558: V. Rivas to R. Morel, $65,000

N. 5th St., 2731: PA Deals LLC to R. Narinesingh, $79,900

N. 6th St., 2646: Preferred Trust Company Custodian & D. Clements to Builders Property Management & Marketing Group LLC, $42,000

N. 12th St., 1002: Cameron St. Body Shop Inc. & Aumiller’s Auto Parts Inc. to DF Herr LP, $750,000

N. 15th St., 1419: 1900 Capital Trust II to S. Jumaevo & A. Ruziev, $33,000

N. 16th St., 716: H. Lowery to J. Vazquez, $135,000

N. 16th St., 1223: KDR Investments LLP to W. West, $79,000

N., 17th St., 117: Justgeoff Partners LLC to Ice Properties LLC, $40,000

N. 18th St., 706: C. Harper to T. Mulally, $55,550

N. Cameron St., 33: Musalair Trust to 27 33 N. Cameron St. LLC, $5,264,000

N. Front St., 1525, Unit 303: A. Cahall & M. Brenner to R. & S. Cuyjet, $127,000

Peffer St., 329: Secretary of Housing & Urban Development information Systems & Networks to J. Secrest, $34,500

Penn St., 1931: R. & B. Precourt to Z. Ashley & A. Garman, $150,000

Pennwood Rd., 3127: J. Bell to N. Lilla, $125,000

Rolleston St., 1411 & 1315: Keystone RH LLC to JWM Associates, $1,360,000

Rumson Dr., 331: D. Burns to T. Ait, $85,000

S. 14th St., 47: Redevelopment Authority City of Harrisburg to Capital Region Economic Development Corporation, $115,000

State St., 131: Grandtree Farms Incorporated to WCI Partners LP, $150,000

State St., 1406: JRC Properties LLC to AISH Partners LLC, $80,500

State St., 1726: K. Fearnbaugh to Three Bridges Holdings LLC, $69,500

Verbeke St., 222: E. Dean to S. Price & D. Lyons Jr., $157,500

Walnut St., 1818: J. Monroe Trust to F. Counts, $33,000

Woodlawn St., 2259: D. Enders to HL Bowman Building LLC, $199,963

Woodlawn St., 2323: Brothers & Sister Food Service Inc. to Indigo Foods USA, $680,000

Harrisburg property sales for August 2019, greater than $30,000. Source: Dauphin County. Data is assumed to be accurate.

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