Tag Archives: andCulture

Burg Blog: Historic Credits

The long-shuttered Swallow Mansion in Harrisburg is currently under restoration.

As it does each year, Historic Harrisburg Association this past week presented its “Preservation Priority” list.

This is a summary of some of the Harrisburg area’s most threatened structures, and many of the buildings on the 2020 list should come as no surprise to anyone who cares about historic preservation locally.

On it, you’ll find such notable structures as the J. Donald Cameron Mansion (up for sale), the Riverside Firehouse (slated to be sold), several abandoned churches and a few structures, victims of negligent owners, that may be lost forever if not shored up soon (among them, the pre-Civil War Balsley House downtown and the former Gerber’s Department Store—aka the “Carpets and Draperies” building—in Midtown).

The old Harrisburg Moose Lodge, now the home of StartUp Harrisburg and Union Lofts

Each year, HHA uses this list to make the public aware of the area’s historic heritage crumbling around them—and maybe even hold owners’ collective feet to the fire.

But I’d like to use this blog post to highlight something else. In its presentation, further down, following the bad news, there is this—hope.

HHA lists a section called “prior listings,” which consists mostly of buildings that have been preserved or are otherwise no longer threatened.

The fully restored North Street building, which now houses Elementary Coffee Co. and apartments

I think it’s important to highlight the buildings that have been saved and the people who have done the expensive, hard work, often against the odds and against financial logic, to preserve them. It wasn’t long ago that these buildings were endangered.

So, an enormous thanks to:

  • Mike and Sally Wilson, who transformed the decrepit Mary Sachs and Hull mansions into the stunning Manor on Front Bed & Breakfast
  • Chris and Erica Bryce, who restored the General Henry and Elizabeth Gross Mansion next door to Manor on Front
  • Harristown Development, which saved the old Fox Hotel/Santanna’s Restaurant, turning it into a boutique apartment building
  • Vice Capital/LeRon and LeSean McCoy, who are finishing up a total restoration of the Swallow Mansion on N. 6th Street
  • WCI Partners, which restored the boarded up former Moose Lodge and several commercial buildings on the 900-block of N. 3rd Street
  • Matt Krupp and Harrisburg Commercial Interiors for saving and rebuilding two North Street buildings that now house Elementary Coffee Co. with apartments upstairs.

The Bridge, the former Bishop McDevitt High School

And, as they say, the best is yet to come.

This year, The Bridge plans to begin to transform the old Bishop McDevitt High School into co-working space and an “eco village,” Matt Long/Harrisburg Commercial Interiors has received permission to begin work restoring the Jackson Rooming House, and andCulture is completing a restoration of the Old Waterworks on Front Street.

There’s also hope that, this year, the Harrisburg school district may finally sell the William Penn building and property and that the Zembo Shrine building will change hands and find a new use.

Lastly, a million thanks to David Morrison, Jeb Stuart, Calobe Jackson and everyone at HHA for reminding this community of its historic heritage—and how important it is to preserve it.

To learn more about Historic Harrisburg Association, visit their website.

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He’s Got a Song: Local guitarist leaves L.A. music scene and embraces Harrisburg’s.

Eight years ago, Peter Stone was in high school at Harrisburg Academy.

When they didn’t have class, he and his friends would head to their music teacher Randy Gutwein’s room. All day, they had sat in classes, working, listening, but now was their chance to make some noise.

“He let us come to his room when we didn’t have class and just play really loud electric guitar and bang on the drum sets and stuff,” Stone said.

Just over a month ago, Stone and Gutwein chatted over the phone for the first time in years.

“He was like ‘sorry, I’m a little deaf now, thanks,’” Stone said. “He was making fun of me for causing his deafness. Which is probably actually true.”

Today, listening to his soft folk songs, you could hardly guess that this same man once caused his music teacher’s hearing loss from rocking out too hard.


Likes It

Most days, Stone sits in an office on Front Street in Harrisburg overlooking the Susquehanna River. He’s a software engineer for the design company, andculture. He’s had lots of jobs here and there, but this is his first time doing this.

The New Cumberland native has been in Harrisburg for over a year now. It bears little resemblance to Boston and Los Angeles, the two cities where he spent his late teens to early 20s, but he likes it.

Over the short time he’s been here, Stone has already woven himself into the music scene in Harrisburg, one he says he was “pleasantly surprised by.”

He has already played at H*MAC, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Cornerstone Coffeehouse, Little Amps and other venues around the city.

He’s released two songs, “Fells Reservoir” and “Sparks,” on Soundcloud, which will be part of a collection of songs about water. Some, he said, will be named after local bodies of water. Soon enough, you may be able to listen to music inspired by the Yellow Breeches Creek and the Susquehanna River.

Stone draws inspiration for his lyrics from nature as well as the social and political issues he’s passionate about.

“I’m a pretty radical person,” he said. “Very anti-war, anti-racism, pro-tolerance and acceptance. There are songs I’m working on about that, and I’ve been using my music to do stuff about that.”

He explained how, through concerts, he has raised money for Extinction Rebellion, an international movement to bring awareness to climate change issues.

No matter the message, Stone has one underlying goal for his music.

“I want to express myself and help other people express themselves,” he said. “I just want to be a positive influence.”

His songs allow him a platform to speak his mind and feel confident in his work. But that wasn’t always the case. Stone’s come a long way in realizing his long-held vision.


Move Home

It all started when Stone was studying at Tufts University in Massachusetts and saw an advertisement for a band called the Rare Occasions. They were looking for a guitarist, and well, Stone was just that. Singer Brian McLaughlin, drummer Luke Imbusch, bassist Jeremy Cohen and Stone made up the band, initially playing at colleges, bars and parties.

Along the way, they amassed followers and played on local radio stations and at music festivals. Their early song, “Dysphoric,” won them the “Song of the Year” award in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and they began touring the country.

Most of the band’s songs were about relationships—friendships and romance. They made songs about what mattered to them, with a sound that they liked.

Life began changing as two of the band members graduated, the drummer moving to Los Angeles, leaving Stone with a decision of what to do next.

For four months, he and his girlfriend at the time traveled around the country, exploring, sleeping in tents and even staying at a llama farm, all with the goal of ending up in Los Angeles. Eventually, the singer and bassist met them there too.

The band reached a high with their album, “Into the Shallows,” in 2018, but Stone began hitting tough times when his relationship, finances and well-being took a turn for the worse.

“In order to keep doing what I was doing at that time, to make the band work, I was sacrificing my health,” Stone said. “I couldn’t sacrifice the way that I was to make it work when it wasn’t my baby.”

He decided to leave the band and move home.


An Impact

Now back in Pennsylvania, Stone is making music that’s his. He’s not getting lots of money, or really any, but he’s growing his fan base.

He gets off work, packs up his car and heads to whichever coffee shop or restaurant he’s playing that night. A one-man band, getting set up only requires a trip or two to the car.

“It’s lonely though,” he said. “It’s hard to work on recording stuff because I get lonely, and I live alone for the first time ever. So, it’s been taking me a long time to finish my record.”

However, Stone hopes to begin releasing more songs in spring.

“One of the reasons why I like being a musician is because you get a loud microphone to talk to people, and they hear what you say,” he said. “I know how much music influences people. I want to have an impact on the youth in a way that helps them the way music helped me.”

For more information and upcoming concert dates, visit Peter Stone’s website at www.peterstonemusic.com.

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Through Choppy Waters: Catamaran helps guide startups to safe harbor.

Burg in Focus: Catamaran from GK Visual on Vimeo.

Plant guilt. It’s a thing. Drop a plant in the ground. Watch it wither. Bear the shame.

Enter Gnomesy, a startup in development to “take the time and guesswork out of planning and maintaining a customized green space through regular deliveries of plants and related products.”

“We’re creating a safe space of sorts, so that maybe a plant only lives for three months, but that’s OK,” said Gnomesy co-founder Joella Gamon. “You learn something, and we’ve got you. There’s a new plant coming, and you don’t have to look at the Latin name on Google and figure out all that information.”

Gamon is in the second cohort of Catamaran, Harrisburg-based Andculture’s early-stage startup accelerator that helps new entrepreneurs set sail, offering them mentorship and a host of supporting services.

Gnomesy co-founder Joella Gamon

Andculture’s 20 years of experience on the art of startup survival is a differentiator, said Lauren McAteer, director of innovation transfer acceleration. Another is the partnerships that Catamaran builds with entrepreneurs, who emerge not just with “a business plan or an idea on the back of a napkin,” but a minimally viable product, or MVP, that’s ready to roll.

In Catamaran, failure is an option. Actually, some failure is kind of expected.

Take Mark Wieder, best known for his Popped Culture social enterprise. Wieder entered Catamaran’s first cohort with the idea of offering mentorship for budding entrepreneurs. Pushed by Catamaran’s consultants, he researched the idea and found a bunch of big-name players already in the space.

“It’s one of those really down moments,” he said. “I find those down moments are followed by some of the highest breakthrough moments. If it does exist, what doesn’t exist?”

Founders get customized help from Andculture designers, engineers and strategy consultants. Business partners also provide mentorship—Gift CPAs on finances, Nell McCormack Abom Communications on strategic communications and media relations, Penwell Bowman + Curran for legal guidance and Sandler Training on sales and productivity improvement.

Wieder created his “doesn’t exist” product, called POPrietor, with a “creative space for a professional showcase in a way that spoke to youth.”

“Who you are and what you do doesn’t make sense on just a piece of paper anymore,” Wieder said. “You have social media across the web. If you can put that all in one place, somebody can get a good sense of you and what you’re all about.”

Within Catamaran, Wieder’s developing concept received resistance “from time to time. They weren’t afraid to push back when you needed it and support you when you needed lifting up.”

Or as McAteer put it, “No one tells you your baby is ugly.”



New cohort member Dana Willard admits to being “the type of person who just shoots and aims later.”

She took the leap from financial industry professional to self-employed consultant, helping clients through the complex paperwork associated with a loved one’s death. But after three years, she needed to scale up and provide more solutions.

The first weeks of Catamaran were “a real eye-opener,” Willard said. Catamaran-driven research into her startup, Cope Mosaic, revealed “needs in the community that I didn’t even think were there—maybe with the preplanning phase or things I never even thought I could help people with.”

Andculture, hoping to create new cohorts biannually, has “learned a ton” about the needs of entrepreneurs, said McAteer. Lesson number one: “It’s really hard to go it alone.” So, meet the new cohort—two spousal duos and a team of brothers.

“We are calling it the family cohort,” said Gnomesy founder Gamon.

With her technical lead, husband Tom Gamon, she is developing a service that she couldn’t find in the overwhelming world of gardening.

The minds of Catamaran are helping Gamon narrow her entrance point. It seems to be young professionals, the ones who “start paging through Instagram and then you go to a garden store and say, ‘I want this,’ and they say, ‘That won’t grow,’ and you say, ‘But it looks good on Instagram.’ We’re looking to solve all those problems.”

“Entrepreneurs are seeing this as a place where they can live and work and grow their businesses,” said McAteer.


Small Steps

Ben Lewis approached Catamaran with a single ask: “I’m a construction guy trying to build an app. Help me.”

“That was my question,” he said. “It was almost a statement.”

Lewis and his brothers grew up in construction and, like their industry counterparts, struggle to find subcontractors. Their SubX app will connect contractors with quality subcontractors.

“Catamaran is helping us talk to our target customers to determine if this really is a great product, because we operate in our own bubble,” Lewis said.

Ben’s brother, Will, is the technical lead, while older brother, Andrew, came up with the idea. Other sites bridging the divide operate on a project basis, said Ben.

“But this is connecting people with people,” he said. “That’s a big difference.”

Cohort members pay no upfront costs. As a Pennsylvania benefit corporation, Catamaran applies its profits for community benefit. Participants pledge 3 percent of their equity to Catamaran, which acts as a holding company. If a member has an event, such as a company sale or equity offering, that 3 percent is distributed to all the Catamaran participants.

“There’s not a winner and a loser,” said McAteer. “They’re all helping each other. If you do well, I do well.”

Two initiatives underway—a venture capital fund and an incubator for post-startup tech companies—are intended to support the accelerator’s community work, she said.

Another lesson that Andculture learned from the first round—how to “hone in on proving the concept,” McAteer said. “What’s going to take you to the next level and not get distracted by features that aren’t going to add a lot of value?”

Willard, of Cope Mosaic, sees Catamaran providing forward momentum for her and her technical lead, husband Travis Willard. She advises clients to break down their processes into small steps. It took Catamaran to make her follow her own advice.

“So many different avenues and so many different doors have opened along the way,” she said. “I’m trying to focus on just one. What door am I going in right now and address those other doors later?”
Andculture is located at 200 Locust St., Harrisburg, with plans to move soon to the Old Waterworks building in Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.andculture.com. For more information about Catamaran, visit www.catamaran.cc.

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June News Digest

HUD Grants Proposed

The annual process of disbursing federal housing funds began last month, as Harrisburg City Council introduced an ordinance that would provide money to nearly a dozen nonprofit groups.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said that the city used the same process in selecting award recipients as last year, using a point-based merit system to judge applications.

“It’s a number of small grants,” Papenfuse said. “It’s not as much as anyone wanted.”

In all, the city will distribute $2.04 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money, a program of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. This amount includes almost $1.9 million from the 2018 allocation, plus a small supplemental amount tied to unallocated funds from a prior year.

Like last year, the greatest single amount of money, $593,423, will go to repay federal loans the city backed during the Reed administration for several development projects, including the disastrous Capitol View Commerce Center project, which went bankrupt before being completed years later by a new owner.

“If we didn’t have an exorbitant debt service, we’d have a lot more money for housing,” Papenfuse said.

Most of the nonprofits proposed to receive funds have gotten some money from previous CDBG allocations. The proposed recipients include:

  • TriCounty HDC: $250,000
  • Habitat for Humanity: $100,000
  • A Miracle 4 Sure: $50,000
  • TLC Work Based Training: $45,000
  • Christian Recovery Aftercare Ministries (C.R.A.M.): $40,000
  • Latino Hispanic Community Center: $25,000
  • Heinz-Menaker Senior Center: $25,000
  • Fair Housing Council: $25,000
  • PPL/IN HOUSE: $20,000
  • Shades of Greatness: $15,000
  • Neighborhood Dispute Settlement: $5,000

Like last year, Tina Nixon, an executive with UPMC Pinnacle, scored the applications, Papenfuse said. While most nonprofits that applied received some funding, several did not make the cut, he said.

In addition, the city is proposing to allocate $321,642 for its housing rehabilitation programs and another $408,765 to CDBG administration.


QOZ Tracts Approved

The federal government last month approved all of the census tracts nominated for a new program aimed at spurring development in low-income communities.

Six of those tracts are in Harrisburg.

“Approval of our nominated tracts is an important step in the process of bringing critical investment and development to these areas,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “Designation as an opportunity zone is one piece of the puzzle that can help many of our distressed communities across the commonwealth.”

In April, Wolf nominated 300 low-income census tracts across the state as Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ), a status created under the 2017 federal tax reform bill. All were accepted.

Six of Harrisburg’s 14 census tracts were included in Wolf’s submission. The potential investment zones encompass the city’s downtown area south of Forster Street, South Harrisburg, South and Central Allison Hill and the neighborhoods along the city’s Cameron Street industrial corridor.

The QOZ program aims to stimulate investment in low-income communities by providing tax breaks to private investors. It’s expected to defer or reduce capital gains taxes to anyone who invests in funds supporting businesses, real estate and other ventures in the zones.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury is still in the process of developing the program, and the IRS is expected to provide further information regarding opportunities for investment in zones in the coming months, according to Wolf’s office.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse has said that the recommended zones aligned with the city’s current development efforts, including the MulDer Square revitalization project and the Paxton Creek reclamation in the industrial corridor.

To qualify for QOZ status, a census tract had to have at least a 20-percent poverty rate or a median family income less than 80 percent of the statewide or regional median income.


State Urges Changes to School District

Soon after wrapping up a protracted battle over its superintendent, the Harrisburg school district may find itself in another personnel battle.

The state Department of Education is asking the district to search for new leadership for its business office, which oversees budgets and financial management.

In a letter to the district last month, department Secretary Pedro Rivera said that the district’s chief financial officer and business manager do not meet the criteria set forth in its five-year recovery plan, which calls for full-time, permanent, highly qualified employees to fill both positions.

The school board has final say on all district personnel actions. But board members, who diverged for the past six months over whether to replace or retain Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney, once again disagree on the need to seek new hires.

Board President Judd Pittman interprets the letter as a directive from the state, giving the district no choice but to replace interim, part-time CFO James Snell and acting Business Manager Bilal Hasan. But board Vice President Danielle Robinson thinks the district should keep the current team.

“It’s not a directive, it’s a suggestion,” Robinson said. “The team we have in place is giving us what we need.”

The business manager and CFO are responsible for developing and managing the district’s $156 million budget. This year, the district faces a shortfall of almost $9 million. The business office has proposed bridging it with a $5 million transfer from its fund balance, $4 million in staff cuts, and a 3.6 percent tax hike.


New Monument to Honor Prominent African Americans

Harrisburg’s Riverfront Park is dotted with historical monuments, but none of them honor African Americans.

A group of citizens hopes to change that.

Members of the Peace Promenade Project are asking city hall to green-light Harrisburg’s first monument to African Americans, which they hope to erect near the corner of Forster and Front Streets by June 2019.

Their proposal calls for a life-size tableau of four Pennsylvania abolitionists and voting-rights advocates: Thomas Chester, a Harrisburg-born journalist and attorney; William Howard Day, the first black school board director in Pennsylvania; Jacob Compton, a pastor who drove Abraham Lincoln’s carriage during his visit to Harrisburg; and Frances Harper, a poet and women’s rights activist.

All except Harper lived in Harrisburg and are buried in Lincoln Cemetery in Penbrook.

“This is an American monument that represents the continuing struggle for the full fulfillment of the 15th amendment,” said Lenwood Sloan, leader of the Peace Promenade Project, which aims to rededicate Harrisburg’s public monuments through a yearlong event series.

Kelly Summerford, another project leader, said that the monument would also offer local students an opportunity to learn about abolition and voting rights.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse said he met with the project leaders and enthusiastically supports the project. He also offered to help the group pursue a gaming grant from Dauphin County.

The Peace Promenade group, which counts more than 200 members and 40 supporting organizations, plans to fund the monument through public support, corporate donations and individual giving. They did not announce an anticipated budget.

According to Summerford, the group plans to follow a process used by the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts to commission an artist and develop a design.

They hope to install the monument by “Juneteenth” 2019—the anniversary of June 19, 1865, the official announcement of the end of slavery in the former Confederacy.

At press time, council had not yet affirmed the final allocations.


Harristown Eyes Another Project

Chalk up another apartment conversion for Harristown Enterprises.

The Harrisburg-based company already has converted several rundown office buildings downtown to higher-end apartment buildings. Last month, it announced another—this one at 116 Pine St.

“We feel very good about the rental market,” said Harristown CEO Brad Jones. “We’re trying to create more of a neighborhood downtown.”

The bank-owned, 54,600-square-foot building is on the market for $1.3 million. If Harristown completes the purchase, it plans to convert the circa-1946 building to 44 apartment units, its largest residential project to date.

The five-story building currently houses several different entities, which would be relocated. The longstanding first-floor tenant, Alicia’s Deli, is likely to remain in the building, Jones said.

The building is directly next door to another office building at 124 Pine St. that Harristown currently has under contract from seller Keystone Human Services. City Council approved that project, which includes 25 apartment units and 19 parking spaces, in April.

“Our intent is to build them together and have economies of scale,” Jones said, adding that Harristown expects to invest some $12 million in the projects.

Harristown has long been known as a commercial developer. However, it began to move into the multi-family residential market several years ago, focusing on rehabilitating old, often dilapidated and vacant office buildings, converting them to apartments.


New Owner for Old Waterworks

A Harrisburg-based design and engineering company has purchased the historic Old Waterworks building on the Susquehanna River, with plans to turn it into its new headquarters.

Andculture will relocate from its downtown offices following the full renovation of the 22,000-square-foot building, said co-owner David Hickethier.

The Waterworks is one of only two structures remaining within the confines of Riverfront Park. Portions of the Front Street building date to 1841.

The building served as a pumping station for Harrisburg until 1972, when that use ended following severe flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes. The city later converted it into an office building.

In 2002, Mann Realty, a real estate firm, bought the building. Andculture acquired the property from Mann Realty, which is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, for $1.25 million, according to the Dauphin County property database.

“It’s a very unique building,” Hickethier said. “There are only two on that side of Front Street, right on the river.”

Hickethier expects Andculture, a company he co-owns with partners Josh Benton and Evan Keller, to occupy the majority of the building for its main offices and for its business accelerator, Catamaran.

The company may lease out some of the remaining space, especially to complementary businesses, and would like to reserve a portion for public use, possibly for meetings and receptions, Hickethier said.

Since the major city renovation 30 years ago, the building has suffered a few floods and has not undergone a major update. So, Hickethier and his partners plan to mount a complete restoration. The work includes removing drop ceilings, restoring floors, opening up spaces and making substantial repairs.


New Sanitation App

Sanitation and recycling services in Harrisburg are about to get a little more user-friendly.

The city last month announced a new app called Recycle Coach, which allows residents to get the latest information on sanitation services, schedules, what and where to recycle, collection requirements and more.

“[The app provides] details people need to understand, like the way food could potentially contaminate recyclables,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse. “The app addresses all this, and it’s really interesting, easy to use and fun.”

Already used in other states and countries, Recycle Coach is now available for Harrisburg residents. The app is personalized via language, building type (apartment or home) and address. Using that information, six tabs on the home screen offer users various types of functionality, information and additional options.

John Rarig, Harrisburg’s recycling coordinator, said that the Recycle Coach app will help the city get sanitation information out to the public quicker.

“This app will allow us to update information as things change [such as] weather problems and things that we can notify the populous about,” he said. “[Recycle Coach] is very easy to work with, and we think this is a great thing for Harrisburg.”

Harrisburg residents can access Recycle Coach not only from their smartphones, but also via computers and voice assistants such as Alexa.


So Noted

Harrisburg Beer Week last month presented a check for $40,000 to Harrisburg River Rescue and Emergency Services, the beneficiary of the 10-day-long celebration of local craft beer. For the past several years, the River Rescue has used the funds to continue the renovation of its headquarters.

Homeland Center last month dedicated its 6th Street entrance in memory of the late John Crain Kunkel, a U.S. congressman, and his wife Katherine, who served on the board of managers and established what is believed to be the first-ever beauty shop in a long-term care facility, according to the Harrisburg-based care facility. More recently, the Kunkel family made possible Homeland’s 71-bed skilled care nursing pavilion, and their foundation sponsored Homeland’s 150th Gala, said Homeland.

Percel Eiland resigned last month as a member of the Harrisburg school board, having only served about six months. The board will now take steps to find a candidate to fill the remainder of Eiland’s term, which runs until the end of next year.

In Memoriam

Nick Laus, renowned Harrisburg restaurateur, died last month at age 59. Laus founded many restaurants in the area, including Café Fresco, Cork & Fork, Home 231 and Burger Yum, as well as the nightclub, Level 2.

Changing Hands

Adrian St., 2441: G. & T. Spiese to H. Le, $64,000

Bartine St., 1323: E. & G. Solomon to J. Herr, $82,000

Bellevue Rd., 1963: M. Mack to R. Lewis, $54,900

Berryhill St., 2034: D. Smith to S. Griffin, $33,000

Berryhill St., 2400: L. Rich to E. Alcantra, $40,001

Boas St., 304: Calder Street Development LLC to RC Herr, $35,000

Calder St., 264: J. Hummel to L. Boenzli, $127,000

Capitol St., 1218: M. Wickwire to K. Knapp, $118,000

Chestnut St., 2032: W. Noss & R. Maynard to M. Jackson & J. Fulton, $124,900

Delaware St., 259: K. Dyrli to R. Goodfriend, $142,500

Delaware St., 261: C. Hartman to T. Harris & B. Barto, $117,500

Green St., 918: S. Brennan & L. Sterkenberg to S. Lacey, $144,900

Green St., 1328: D. Misner to A. Koser, $116,540

Green St., 1412: J. Kibler to J. Ehring, $70,000

Green St., 1612: H. Task to B. Brubaker, $149,900

Green St., 1946: C. Smith & T. Chickey to P. Sosik, $174,900

Green St., 2321: Willowscott Investment LLC to J. Hofman, $80,000

Green St., 2412: R. Lawson to B. Vargas, $219,500

Hillside Rd., 214: R. & T. Winder to R. Bateman & C. McDonough, $164,900

Hoffman St., 3010: Duetsche Bank National Trust Co. Trustee to Innovative Devices Inc., $41,300

Hoffman St., 3229: Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. to B. Foor, $59,000

Industrial Rd., 3900: Supervalue Penn LLC to CF Grocery Distribution & Propco LLC, $85,535,256

Jefferson St., 2645: M. Watson to D. Solomon, $60,400

Kensington St., 2004: JCB Associates & State House Group to A. Ryabukha, $39,000

Kensington St., 2324: A. & M. Oliphant to C. Austin, $59,900

Market St., 1713: LAGR Properties LLC to J. & L. Hendricks, $65,000

Mercer St., 2470: A. Hankerson to A. & M. Allen, $49,137

Muench St., 429: Dobson Family Partnership to Y. & K. Han, $50,000

N. 2nd St., 1521: W. Glover to E&S Properties, $107,000

N. 2nd St., 1803: S. & S. Cooper to Z. Gause, $122,500

N. 2nd St., 1916: C. Bashore to G. Crone, $155,000

N. 2nd St., 2602: K. & K. Fischer to K. Kennedy, $105,000

N. 2nd St., 2953: D. Alvey to PI Capital LLC, $144,401

N. 2nd St., 3209: S. Kumarasingam to Benchmarq Holdings LLC, $65,361

N. 3rd St., 1004, 1006, 1008 & 1010 Susquehanna St.: T. & E. Buda to Maki Developments LLC, $695,000

N. 3rd St., 1010: T. Buda to Maki Developments LLC, $225,000

N. 3rd St., 1725: K. & L. Helm to I. Kazar, $81,000

N. 3rd St., 3004: N. Ernst to K. & A. Brady, $77,000

N. 4th St., 2143: 690 Market Street LLC to R. Joline, $33,000

N. 4th St., 2641: Y. Borras to J. Santiago, $59,000

N. 4th St., 2731: R. Rickabaugh to M. Martinez & M. Price, $111,700

N. 6th St., 1346: J. MacDonald to A. Blank & A. Edwards, $114,900

N. 6th St., 2212: L. Ware Jr. to J. Strain, $60,000

N. 7th St., 1501: AT&T Communications to 1501 Harrisburg Partners LLC, $425,000

N. 15th St., 1431: M. Clark & J. Payton to X. Nguyen, $55,000

N. Front St., 614: Mann Realty Associates Inc. to Granma LLC, $1,250,000

Norwood St., 914: A. Wilhelm to I. Rodriguez, $35,000

Penn St., 1614: M. Smith to J. Napora & S. Bassler, $144,900

Penn St., 1809: K. Hyp to J. Francescangeli & D. Rocklein, $165,000

Penn St., 1931: WCI Partners LP to R. & B. Precourt, $134,900

Penn St., 2327: A. & D. Wilhelm to I. Rodriguez, $35,000

Pennwood Rd., 3139: T. Bendrick to L. Ciambotti, $40,000

Sassafras St., 269: Major League Properties LLC to J. Wenger & J. Noel, $130,000

Shamokin St., 110: M. & K. Patterson to E. & L. Match, $165,000

Showers St., 589: T. Fullam & J. Nugent to M. Albizu, $116,000

S. 13th St., 1510: New Heights South LLC to W. Powell Sr., $49,000

S. 14th St., 1437: W. & G. Powell to City of Harrisburg, $50,000

S. 24th St., 535: S. Leibich to PA Double Dels LLC, $178,500

S. Cameron St., 50, 90 & 112: PA Self Storage One LLC to Amerco Real Estate Co., $1,450,000

S. Cameron St., 1058: M. Tice & APR Supply Co. to JWM Associates LP, $343,700

State St., 120: C. & K. Kokoski to O’Hagan Philadelphia LLC, $190,000

State St., 231, Unit 206: LUX 1 LP to F. Clark, $65,000

State St., 1414: G. Dutan to A. & M. Collins, $113,000

Susquehanna St., 3117: J. Fustine to K. O’Neill & M. Delucia, $197,500

Swatara St., 1517: Tri County HDC Ltd. to V. Miller, $99,000

Wendy St., 1126: 147 N. Cameron Partners LP to Keystone K9 LLC, $415,000

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Pumped Up: Local firm Andculture purchases, plans to renovate, relocate to Old Waterworks.

The Old Waterworks complex on Front Street.

The King Mansion, the Moffitt Mansion, the “Mary K” mansions.

In recent years, these iconic Front Street buildings have been purchased, restored and reoccupied.

You can now add to that list a singular Harrisburg property—the historic Old Waterworks building.

Today, the owners of Harrisburg-based Andculture closed on the purchase of the sprawling, 22,000-square-foot building, one of only two structures in Harrisburg within Riverfront Park, directly fronting the Susquehanna River.

After a full building renovation, the design and engineering company plans to relocate its 55-person staff from its long-time downtown home at N. 2nd and Locust streets.

“We are very excited about this,” said David Hickethier, co-owner of Andculture. “This has been a long time in the works.”

The building has been on and off the market for several years. However, the sales process was accelerated once the prior owner, Mann Realty Associates, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in January. According to Dauphin County, Hickethier and his partners bought the property from Mann Realty for $1.25 million.

A view from inside the Old Waterworks, as the Pride of the Susquehanna riverboat churns past.

The Waterworks is one of the oldest extant buildings in Harrisburg, actually comprised of four connected structures.

The original stone portion dates to 1841, built to pump water to the city’s first reservoir, which was located near the state Capitol. The pumping station was substantially enlarged in 1901, with much of the buff-colored brick structure dating to that period. In recent decades, the building fell victim both to the Tropical Storm Agnes flood of 1972, which ended its life as a pumping station, and to a devastating fire five years later.

In the 1980s, the city restored the building, turning it mostly into office space. Mann Realty acquired the property from Harrisburg in 2002 for $350,000, according to the Dauphin County property database.

Hickethier expects Andculture, a company he co-owns with partners Josh Benton and Evan Keller, to occupy the majority of the building for its main offices and for its business accelerator, Catamaran.

The company may lease out some of the remaining space, especially to complementary businesses, and would like to reserve a portion for public use, possibly for meetings and receptions, Hickethier said.

An interior view of some of the hardware inside the Old Waterworks.

Since the major city renovation 30 years ago, the building has suffered a few floods and has not undergone a major update. So, Hickethier and his partners plan to mount a complete restoration. The work includes removing drop ceilings, restoring floors, opening up spaces and making substantial repairs.

“The building has the structure and the bones: stone, steel, brick,” he said. “So, I knew we could work with it.”

Right now, they’re shooting for a year-end completion date, with the understanding that renovations could extend into 2019.

“It’s a very unique building,” Hickethier said. “There are only two on that side of Front Street, right on the river.”

The Old Waterworks is located at 614 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information about Andculture, visit www.andculture.com.

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Cause for Optimism: In addition to resolving its financial crisis, Harrisburg may benefit from a growing preference for urban life.

Screenshot 2013-12-29 19.52.48

We are at a promising time in our city’s history.

This is due, in no small part, to the obvious and recently well-publicized reasons: the election of a new mayor; the imminent resolution to a debt crisis caused by the city’s incinerator; and the outline, at least, of a comprehensive foundation laid out by the receiver’s team to address a decades-long structural deficit. Optimism, after several difficult and uncertain years, is finally, welcomingly warranted.

There is, however, an additional and more fundamental reason to be optimistic about our city. For the first time in more than 60 years, certain trends in residential preferences and business location decisions—or economic geography, as it is sometimes called—favor urban centers like Harrisburg.

These trends have been well-documented and analyzed, most notably by the urban economist Richard Florida in his book “The Rise of the Creative Class” and, more recently, by journalist Leigh Gallagher in her book “The End of the Suburbs.” As Florida, Gallagher and many other observers have pointed out, these trends are animated by a few key, interconnecting factors:

1)     The shift in the economy to increasingly creative, knowledge-based industries.

2)     The emergence of a generation—born between 1979 and 1996, known as Millennials—whose living and work preferences favor walkability, access to mass transit, unique architecture and design, close proximity to restaurants and shops and a diversity, authenticity and overall “coolness factor” generally not found in the suburbs.

3)     The labor market alignment of Millennials with the knowledge, technology and innovation industries, which together fashion a new “creative-class” economy and metropolitan geography.  

Anyone who has visited New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston or Washington, D.C., lately will have seen the impact these trends are having on their downtowns and surrounding neighborhoods. After six decades of decline, each of these cities has registered significant gains in new residents in the 2010 census. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the 30 largest U.S. cities (not metropolitan areas, which are sometimes conflated with the word city, but actual center cities) have gained population by a median of 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2010. And the Brookings Institution recently released a report showing that, between 2011 and 2012, center cities within the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan regions (averaged together) grew more than their surrounding suburbs for the first time since 1920.

Talk of a national urban revival is no longer just wishful thinking by city boosters. The trends and supporting data are real. We are at an inflection point in metropolitan migration patterns throughout the country, driven in large part by the living and work preferences of young adults ages 20 to 34. Charles Lesser & Co., a real estate consulting firm, recently surveyed the preferences of this age group and found that:

  • 31 percent prefer to live in a center city (twice that of previous generations of the same age cohort).
  • Two-thirds seek walkable places or town centers.One-third are willing to pay a premium to be within walking distance to shops, restaurants, bars and other amenities.
  • Half are willing to give up living space in order to live in a walkable neighborhood.
  • Diverse neighborhoods, close proximity to jobs, “authenticity” and places that foster social connectedness are highly valued.

In other words, the places with attributes that Millennials prefer (walkability, social amenities and “cool factor”—i.e. cities) have an inherent competitive advantage to their surrounding region in growing their economy and population. Furthermore, unlike the “old economy” model of labor-market geography, where workers tended to follow the jobs, now the jobs, at least in the creative, knowledge-based industries, are increasingly following the workers. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Companies Say Goodbye to the ‘Burbs,” stated that, “…U.S. firms have begun a new era of corporate urbanism… The bottom line: companies are under pressure to establish an urban presence that projects an image of dynamism and innovation [to attract younger workers].”

Despite being a smaller, “third-class” city, Harrisburg is not immune to these trends. In fact, for the first time since 1950, Harrisburg registered a modest, but still meaningful, population gain in the 2010 census. Not surprisingly, the gain was driven by young adults. The 2010 census reveals that Harrisburg increased its share of 20- to 34-year-olds by 8.7 percent, or 979 residents. In fact, this increase in young adults is actually larger than the total population gain of 578 residents, underscoring the trend’s strength in offsetting losses in other age groups. As this census data indicates, Harrisburg, despite popular negative perceptions, actually offers many of the positive qualities that young adults now prefer.

Our real estate development company, WCI Partners, has witnessed this trend firsthand with our Olde Uptown neighborhood redevelopment project. In 2007, we began renovating vacant, historic row homes in a blighted part of Midtown that had suffered from four decades of disinvestment, decline and concentrated poverty due to the aftermath of the Agnes flood. Since that time, we have renovated more than 100 properties and built 16 new ones within a four-block area, in addition to completing numerous neighborhood improvements like new sidewalks, streetlights, street trees and banners.

As a result, we have seen an influx of about 250 new residents to the area over the last six years (which, in turn, has created a vibrant community with a 90 percent drop in crime). The majority of these new residents (but certainly not all) fit the Millennial profile of professionals and creative types ages 24 to 34, who prefer the walkability, diversity, interesting design and architecture and proximity to bars, restaurants, coffee shops and downtown jobs that the neighborhood affords. The trend (if not quite the magnitude) is as real in Harrisburg as it is in Philadelphia or Washington D.C. As we say in the real estate business, there is demand for city living, at least from a certain (not so insignificant) segment of the market.

Consistent with the “creative-class economy” model of geographic preferences described above, there is also demand from knowledge and technology-based businesses to locate in the city. We have seen this trend at WCI Partners, as well. In fact, over the last half-year, we have been renovating an historic Front Street mansion in Midtown for WebpageFX, an Internet marketing company currently located in Carlisle that will be moving about 50 college-educated employees (almost all of them in their mid-20s) to the city this spring.

WebpageFX began its search almost three years ago, considering locations around the central Pennsylvania region. The company ultimately decided to locate in Harrisburg due to one overriding factor: the city—and its attributes that Millennials prefer—provided the strongest competitive advantage in attracting and retaining young, place-conscious talent. As WebpageFX’s owner Bill Craig told me, “The city is where our employees want to be. They want the proximity to restaurants, bars, coffee shops, the riverfront and other amenities that it offers. Everyone is really excited for the move.”

This and broader examples (andCulture, Red Privet, Pavone, WebClients and others) demonstrate the virtuous cycle that these “new economy” trends generate. Vibrant cities attract creative, young people who, in turn, attract creative businesses that together create more vibrant cities.

This virtuous cycle can be seen more widely in recent development projects and the emergence of “creative-class” services and amenities in the city. Projects like COBA and LUX by Brickbox serve to confirm the demand created by the trend in urban living preferences. New student housing projects, like International House, in concert with the emergence of the HACC Midtown Campus and Harrisburg University as educational anchors, reinforce the city as a “new economy” location. Millennial preferences for urban amenities have driven the development of 2nd Street in downtown, as well as the emergence of neighborhood businesses like Little Amps, Midtown Scholar, Midtown Cinema, Stash, TheMakeSpace, St@rtup and others. And continually growing organizations like Harrisburg Young Professionals help to provide the scaffolding of social activity, civic engagement and consumer spending necessary to sustain and bolster this positive cycle of urban growth.

To be sure, most cities, like Harrisburg, still have a variety of serious challenges to overcome, many of which cannot be easily solved and some of which serve as obstacles to the very trends that would alleviate them. And it often seems that the smaller the city, the bigger the challenges, due to less critical mass and a smaller pool of resources to marshal. Nonetheless, it remains encouraging that the prospects of meaningful growth for cities (including Harrisburg) are real and even seem to be strengthening. For so long, cities have struggled, with frequently frustrating results, against the predominant trends of suburbanization. Now that some of these trends are reversing, it will be the job of public officials, business leaders and various other stakeholders to implement the policies, initiatives and strategic partnerships that will effectively harness them.

David Butcher is president of WCI Partners LP. 

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