Downtown Adorations & Abodes
When the sun rose over central PA cities this morning, it set light on the old church steeples and woke the birds on the telephone wires. Gradually, runners started out for their a.m. jogs, people began their walk to the office and farmers laid out their late-winter produce at market stands. By the afternoon, crowds were waiting to cross the street to their favorite boutiques or to catch up with friends over happy hour. And before the sun settles back down, you will hear kitchens clamoring in every restaurant, a standing ovation at the theater, and someone somewhere saying, “I just love downtown.”
This is not only why more people are visiting downtown York, Lancaster and Harrisburg—this is why people are moving there. In the last several years, each city has experienced a tremendous spike in demand for downtown residential spaces. Leaders in York, Harrisburg and Lancaster cite the same core reasons for this influx: walkability, engagement opportunities and community immersion.
Silas Chamberlin, chief executive officer of York’s Downtown Inc., explains that locals crave an environment of “like-minded people” who volunteer, attend events and hang at the same hot spots. Nearly five years ago, when the first market-rate condominiums opened on George Street, Chamberlin called the project “a shot in the dark,” unsure if any leases would be signed. But every square foot leased out, sending the message that people really do want to live downtown. “There is a sustainable diversity of people,” Chamberlin says, noting the mix of millennials, empty nesters and retirees. So sustainable, in fact, that the five ribbon cuttings celebrated in 2006 boomed to 39 ribbon cuttings in 2016. And while finished residential spaces like Codo 241 and One West already offer a comfortable downtown lifestyle, new projects are always in the works.
Much of York’s development relies on restoration rather than new construction, and Harrisburg is no different. Todd Vander Woude, executive director of Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District, explains that new construction is rarely possible because few open spaces exist. But newer is not always better. As the state capital, Harrisburg thrives on its history and character. By renovating older, meaningful buildings, developers are able to create livable space that is charming, unique and architecturally beautiful.
Harrisburg has also become home to many transplants, just like Lancaster. Marshall Snively, president of Lancaster City Alliance, says people from big cities like Manhattan and Chicago are coming to Lancaster for its family-like community and rapid growth of new businesses. In fact, in the last 10 years, over 100 new businesses opened in the downtown core, and more than 50 existing businesses expanded, Snively says. The city is keeping up by developing new complexes like The Press Building and The Kepple Building, as well as by implementing a 15-year economic strategic plan that includes an additional 2,500 housing units along with hundreds of thousands of square footage in retail and office space.
The demand for downtown homes is only growing. And in York, Royal Square Development and Construction is on first response. Having renovated countless buildings stretching from Beaver Street to Duke Street, Market Street and beyond, RSDC most recently developed REVI Flats. Dylan Bauer, vice president of RSDC, explains that where Weinbrom Jewelers, F.W. Woolworth, and Zakie's nightclub used to exist on West Market Street, a mix of residential and commercial space has taken over. The landmark Weinbrom Jewelers, a building originally designed as a millinery shop, according to Bauer, is now REVI Flats, an eight-unit space made of both high-end lofts and affordable one-bedroom apartments. “People in this town are keen on history,” Bauer says, and many possess “an addiction to charm.” This is the soul of REVI Flats—a beautiful building deeply rooted in York’s heritage but repurposed for the sake of the modern community. That parallels RSDC’s design goals, which Bauer explains as clean and contemporary with an open floor plan, exposed beams and tall windows. When RSDC began brainstorming this idea in the fall of 2014, they expected units to be leased even before the ribbon cutting, which is the pattern of all residential spaces RSDC has constructed. Bauer says there is a “high demand due to low supply,” and RSDC is working to fix that supply problem. “People want to be downtown,” Bauer says. “It’s contagious.”
The couple has an incredible depth of collections
The Lancaster Creatives
Alan Wyand and Bob Shoener had been living in a 5,200-square-foot home in a an upscale suburban Lancaster County neighborhood called Doe Run Hills when their epiphany hit. “We all go through chapters in life, and one day you wake up and say ‘Hey, it’s time,’” Wyand explains. Time to shift their lifestyle, to leave the comfort of the suburbs. Wyand and Shoener discussed their next move. Having retired from the travel business, Wyand has visited more than 62 countries. They discussed Europe, South America, the West Coast. “We considered the world and chose Lancaster,” Wyand says. He explains that there is no other place located within the perfect radius of both major cities and the shore with a reasonable cost of living, distinct seasons and a period of renaissance. In January of 2013, Wyand and Shoener were the first to buy into Magnolia Place, a luxury condominium complex on the corner of North Duke and East Chestnut Streets in Lancaster city. They chose Magnolia Place for its ideal location, brand new construction, and, most importantly, the ability to fully design their condo.
This is where they brought in David Lyall, one of the region’s biggest names in design. Lyall and Megan Donnelly, designer and project coordinator with David Lyall Home and Design, collaborated with Wyand and Shoener to create a clean, contemporary living space that told the story of their passions and adventures. “Bob and Alan had an incredible depth of collections…things with meaning,” Lyall says. The couple possessed a collection of art and keepsakes that could rival that of most professional antique dealers. By listening to their stories and taking visual cues from the collection, Lyall was able to help the couple “edit their collection,” he says, which in turn helped him to design a space that acts as a journey through their timeline and treasures. After nearly two years of collaboration, Wyand and Shoener moved into their modern downtown condo.
The journey begins in the grand foyer, where a glass case lined with mica stone wallcovering displays a handful of treasures and leads past autographed photos of opera singers Wyand has personally met. In the chandelier-strung bedroom, a marble table holds The Dancer statue, while the cozy den and Wyland’s photography office boast pictures from Croatia, France, Guatemala and beyond. A kitchen perfect for entertaining opens into a spacious living room full of local artwork and a baby grand piano, and finally there is their sixth-floor terrace overlooking 11 steeples, where they plant tulips in the spring and where Wyand says you “see Lancaster from a different vantage point.” Lyall explains that he utilized design tricks that “visually increased the square footage,” such as using a similar paint color for the kitchen cabinets and walls, using a similar color for the living room walls and upholstery, forgoing window treatments, and relying on neutral backgrounds that “make the collectibles pop.” Caleb Fetter of Residential Media Systems installed a complete electrical system including sound, a hidden television in the den and an iPad that controls every function in the home. Having lived in their custom haven for nearly two years, Wyand and Shoener say they could not be happier. They can walk to dinner at Carr’s or The Himalayan Curry and Grill, head to The Fulton where they have season tickets, stroll the galleries on Prince Street or attend the Lancaster City Orchestra. They host Music in the Home events for local musicians and to revive chamber music, and they even sponsor an endowment for a music student at Millersville University. Wyand and Shoener have taken advantage of every opportunity the downtown lifestyle offers, and their everyday reflects that fulfillment.
Shook says he can view the Capitol building, churches, the bustle on State Street and the hills past Interstate 81
The Burg Transplant
A cross-country move will typically come with culture shock. Gabe Shook knows this all too well. When Shook accepted a position as a product developer with Hershey, he moved to Harrisburg from Long Beach, California. He lived the urban California style, accustomed to close proximity to anything desired and walking access to all of it. Unsure of the urban Harrisburg style, Shook was hoping to find a home allowing similar city living. After looking at several buildings like 1500 and Strawberry Square, Shook chose Lux Condominiums on the corner of State and Third Streets in downtown Harrisburg. He felt that Lux offered the perfect location and he appreciated the high-end vibe. With Lux boasting six different floor plans, Shook chose Luna, a spacious L-shaped layout with a large bedroom, excess office space and oversized windows from which Shook says he can view the Capitol building, churches, the bustle on State Street and the hills past Interstate 81. Plus, he respects the renovated Lux’s character as well as the quietness of his neighbors.
Although Shook is adjusting to the “big culture shock,” he says he was “pleasantly surprised” by Harrisburg’s nightlife, restaurants and special events. This transplant loves to dine at Cork and Fork, visit Broad Street Market, brunch at Home 231 or run along the river. He says that while his running scenery through Riverfront Park does not resemble the Long Beach scenery, he appreciates being close to any body of water. “As an outsider looking in, I can tell downtown is going through a revolution right now,” Shook says. He recalled his voting experience—watching a mixed crowd of younger and older people being active participants—and stated his admiration for Harrisburg’s revitalization, renovating old, dilapidated buildings while “maintaining their historic value and maintaining their historic look.” Shook believes the city holds potential for something beautiful that is already blooming. One of his favorite traits of downtown is the community itself and the passionate locals who welcome newcomers and encourage their growth in the community. Although Shook may have felt homesick for California during his first Pennsylvania snow season, he has found a home in the family of downtown Harrisburg.