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NEWS AN OPTIMIST STRIKES BACK


Good things are happening right before our eyes. So, what’s with all the cynicism? BY J. ALEX HARTZLER


I meet people every day who love living and working in Harrisburg. Often, just having a coffee at Little Amps or grabbing lunch at Café Fresco, I enjoy the fun and excitement of urban


spontaneity. One meeting leads to two or three other conversations as people have unplanned interactions throughout the course of the day. Te essence of urban living and working is being out and about, walking around, meeting new people and reconnecting with friends and colleagues. Some of the best ideas spring from these chance encounters and enriching conversations, occasionally leading to actions and projects, both large and small. Tis past month, a major new business joined Harrisburg when the Philadelphia Macaroni Co. took over operations at the former Unilever plant on S. 17th Street. Tis is but one of numerous new businesses and residents in Harrisburg recently. While this news was surprising to some (who generally have a cynical outlook of the city), it should not be a surprise to anyone who has been following all of the positive activity going on over the last year. Here is a list of just some other projects (and folks to talk to) if you want to hear the story of what is really happening this summer in Harrisburg. WebpageFX recently moved 65 employees into a renovated, 9,000-square-foot building at 1705 N. Front St. Bill


Craig and Karie Shearer have led the company since its inception. Tey said that moving to Harrisburg from a business incubator in Carlisle was a natural next step in the growth of their company and was essential for their recruitment efforts. WebpageFX has generally young and tech-savvy employees who prefer city amenities—like the beautiful view of the Susquehanna River right out their front window. (My company, WCI Partners, is the developer and landlord of WebpageFX’s building.) Speaking of views, Char’s Tracy Mansion, just up Front Street from WebpageFX, is having a record-breaking year. I spoke to Char Magaro this week, and her business is outperforming all the expectations that she had when she expanded from her prior location in Shipoke. At the time, many were skeptical that any restaurant on Front Street would be successful. However, her food and setting are as good as any in the region and state. While I’m talking about restaurants, Harrisburg boasts not one but several national-class dining experiences. Qui


Qui and her partner Staci, the long-time owners of Mangia Qui and Suba, are set to more than double their restaurant space when they open Rubicon this summer. Sitting in the shadow of the Capitol dome at N. 3rd and North streets, Qui and Staci have re-invested substantial new capital into their business and are excited to expand their offerings in the city. Derek Dilks recently gave me a tour of the LUX condominium building that he and Dan Deitchman redeveloped at N. 3rd and State streets in Harrisburg. Consisting of 44 units, about half of which are already reserved prior to their opening, the building is a terrific redesign and conversion of vacant, rundown office space. Formerly a non-profit association headquarters, the building sat empty for years. Dan and Derek are working on a restaurant for the first floor and offer amazing views of the Capitol building and downtown for their residents from the building’s rooftop. When fully occupied, the building will add vibrancy and foot traffic in the downtown. Josh Kesler recently gave me a tour of his ambitious new project across from the Board Street Market. Over the winter, Josh and his team sandblasted and refinished the old wood timber in the historic Millworks building, which had sat empty for years. Now, they are putting finishing touches on 23 workspaces that have been 100-percent pre- leased to artists who will both make and market their wares in the new space. Josh and his wife are also adding a farm- to-table restaurant and beer garden inside the space. By removing part of the roof, they have created a very unique indoor/outdoor space unlike any other in the region. It is sure to be a new hot spot when it opens this fall. Nick Laus is opening a new wine bar and upscale brick-oven pizzeria called Cork & Fork at the corner of N. 2nd and State streets this fall. Expanding on his already very successful city businesses at Café Fresco and Home 231, Nick’s additional investment shows his continued faith in Harrisburg. (WCI will be the landlord for Cork & Fork.) And the reasons for optimism keep on coming: • Emma’s on Third recently opened an organic spa and yoga studio on 3rd Street in Midtown near the new Susquehanna Art Museum.


• Yellowbird Café was packed this weekend when I swung by for take-out for some friends visiting from out of town. • Aaron Carlson at Little Amps tells me that his business has had its best three months running since it opened. • The team at The MakeSpace continues to impress with all their artistic and community endeavors. • Dan Webster (with an assist from Liz Laribee and Dani Fresh) recently produced a Harrisburg version of their magazine, Local. If you haven’t picked up a copy, please do—it is worth the read.


• Out-of-town investors recently purchased the long-vacant properties previously owned by Mary Knackstedt and have started work, vowing to be the latest residents to make their home on N. Front Street. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Tis is truly an exciting time for Harrisburg. Tere is much more to be done, but our worst days are behind us and many terrific things are happening, if you just look and walk around. Unlike the cynics, don’t be surprised. Just read TeBurg every month (and daily on the Web) to hear about the stories


you won’t find elsewhere. J. Alex Hartzler is publisher of TeBurg.


08.14 | THE BURG | 7


ZONING CODE GETS OK


Harrisburg has a new zoning code, as City Council last month approved a complete overhaul to how the city guides residential and commercial development. Council members gave their unanimous consent to the code, the first complete update in 64 years. Te new code substantially streamlines the city’s zoning map, reducing the number of base zoning districts from 27 to nine and overlay districts from six to four. At the last minute, council made a number of


changes to the code to respond to concerns voiced by several developers during a series of hearings in June. Terefore, with a special exception, a wider variety of uses now will be permitted in certain zones, including the Institutional,


Commercial and Downtown


Center zones. Notably, council narrowly defeated an amendment that would have allowed the owner of the former U.S. postal facility at 815 Market St. to continue a full range of industrial uses by right. Under the new code, his property falls into the Downtown Center zone, where most industrial uses are banned. Under a grandfather clause, businesses will be able to


continue their properties’ current uses, regardless of the new zoning. Te effort to revamp the zoning code began years ago. In 2010, the council introduced a new code, but it died in committee. With several changes, the Papenfuse administration re-introduced that code earlier this year, stating that a new code was needed to move the city forward economically.


SINKHOLE PROBE LAUNCHED Harrisburg City Council last month approved


hiring an engineering firm to conduct an emergency sinkhole investigation. Camp Hill-based Gannett Fleming will perform the


work, focused around the 1400-block of S. 14th St., where several sinkholes have formed in recent months. Te probe, which will employ seismic surface waves and verification drilling to develop a site map, should be completed by year-end. Te cost of the investigation will be shared with Capital Region Water. It is estimated to cost $166,000.


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