Posted: Jan 10, 2007, 2:43 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Wilmington, DE
Warehouse redevelopment in Lancaster, PA
Condos, retail proposed for N. Queen site
$10M project planned at former Wild auto parts properties goes before City Council tonight
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - Lancaster City officials this evening are expected to give their blessing to plans to remake a vacant warehouse and storefronts into a new retail and condominium project.
Trucking company owner Steve Messner is making his first foray into city investment with the acquisition and redevelopment of the former James F. Wild auto parts properties, at the southeast corner of North Queen and East Lemon streets.
City Council is slated to vote on a zoning change for the properties that would allow the redevelopment, a project expected to cost more than $10 million.
Messner, through his company, Messner Properties, plans to acquire 10 properties at the corner from the Wild family. The Wild family has held the properties for 89 years.
According to filings with the city, Messner plans to create 26 new residential units, renovate existing properties and add retail space.
It also will transform the corner, which has resisted the redevelopment that has gone on around it.
Messner’s project will accentuate the trendy shops and restaurants on that block of North Queen Street and nearby on Lemon Street.
“I want to complement what’s already there and enhance the neighborhood,” Messner said today.
“There’s some great things happening in that neighborhood.”
Besides the vitality of the immediate area, Messner said he was attracted to the properties by their proximity to other city destinations.
“It’s three blocks from everywhere: the hospital, the stadium, Central Market, restaurants,” he said.
Messner’s plan will be the second condominium project in that area to be considered by tonight.
City Council also is due to consider the sale of the Lancaster Press building — a block away — to a group of developers for a $16.5 million, upscale condominium and retail project.
Mayor Rick Gray this morning praised Messner’s project.
“It certainly has our full support,” Gray said.
The mayor said there’s a demand for market-rate housing downtown. This project would make new housing available without displacing existing residents.
“Every day that goes by people walk up and tell me that they would really like to live downtown but there is no housing available. This is just answering the demand,” said Gray.
He hopes additional downtown residents would create a cascading effect by supplying customers for additional downtown stores and service businesses.
Subject to securing approvals from city officials, Messner hopes to break ground on the project in late April or early May.
In information submitted to the city, Messner plans to:
~ Reuse a warehouse at 336 N. Christian St., for six loft condominiums. There would be a parking area on the ground floor.
~ Construct a new mixed-use building at the corner, 349-357 N. Queen St., with 16 residential units, 16 ground-floor parking spaces, and 5,000 feet of commercial space along the street.
~ Renovate the existing, late 19th-Century storefronts at 341-347 N. Queen St. and renovate the upper-floor apartments.
~ Renovate six existing rowhouses, at 14-24 E. Lemon St.
Messner would demolish additions to the rear of existing retail buildings and a smaller building, at 349-351 N. Queen St., to make way for the new building and for a courtyard parking area that would be accessed from Christian Street.
Paula Jackson, the city’s chief planner, said what Messner is proposing is exactly the type of project the city is seeking.
It promises to adaptively reuse historic buildings, increase homeownership, will help stabilize the neighborhood, increase the tax base, provide parking, and people who will support downtown businesses and nightlife.
“It’s very consistent with our goals and objectives,” Jackson said. “It’s great. It’s a great project.”
Messner owns JR Transportation, a trucking and warehousing firm that he founded in 1992 and named after his father, J. Richard Messner.
In 2003, he moved the company from Mount Joy to the vacant Miller & Hartman complex on Greenfield Road in a $3.1 million project.
A Strasburg resident, he’s a graduate of Lampeter-Strasburg High School who has spent his entire career in transportation. He worked for eight years at Quaker Plastics, becoming traffic manager, before launching his own firm.