'Icing on the cake'

New tenants, initiatives energize Lancaster's Urban Place complex

October 05. 2012 3:00AM

Tim Stuhldreher

This fall, a restaurant called The Baker's Table is opening at the Urban Place complex in Lancaster.

A communal table is the centerpiece of The Baker’s Table, a bakery and café set to open this fall at the Urban Place complex in Lancaster. Spokeswoman Jill Fanning, seated, is part of the family that owns and operates the mixed-use development that includes commercial space, apartments, the Cork Factory Hotel and the Cork & Cap Restaurant. Photo/Amy Spangler

It will feature baked goods crafted by the Cork & Cap Restaurant's chefs and one-of-a-kind gourmet coffee, Urban Place spokeswoman Jill Fanning said.

For Urban Place, The Baker's Table represents "the icing on the cake," as the venue's marketing puts it — the capstone ingredient in a recipe nearly a decade in the making.

Urban Place was a derelict industrial site when its developers, the Baldwin family, acquired it in 2004. Today, more than a dozen enterprises occupy most of its commercial space and its 42 residential apartments are all leased, Fanning said. Business is brisk at the Cork Factory Hotel and the Cork & Cap Restaurant, and they host 90 to 100 weddings a year, she said.

The bustling event business necessitated another addition: a 2,800-square-foot banquet room called "The Warehouse." It can accommodate up to 400 people for receptions and 180 people for sit-down events, Fanning said.

Husband and wife Barry and Linda Baldwin and their children comprise Urban Place LP, the firm that developed the property and operates the hotel and the restaurant. Barry Baldwin heads B.J. Baldwin Electric Inc. and several related companies. Fanning is the Baldwins' daughter.

The buildings at Urban Place were home to a number of industrial businesses over the decades, including Armstrong Cork Co. and Kerr Glass, but they were largely abandoned by the time the Baldwins acquired the 11.5-acre site.

The new owners tore down multiple buildings and carted away tons of debris. They extensively renovated the remaining buildings, which total about 300,000 square feet.

Kairos Health Systems Inc., which provides insurance consulting and purchasing services for nursing homes, moved into Urban Place earlier this year. The site gives Kairos room to grow and consolidates one floor space that previously was scattered among three, President and CEO Jennifer Witmer said.

"They've been great to work with," she said of the Baldwins.

In September, accounting firm McKonly & Asbury moved its Lancaster office to Urban Place from East Lampeter Township.

"It's nice being closer to downtown," partner Mark Heath said.

Ryan Benner and Lani Todd opened the 3,400-square-foot Plum Salon & Spa at Urban Place in August 2011. The wedding business at the hotel and restaurant provides a perfect synergy for Plum, Benner said.

"We do a ton of bridal parties," he said.

Plum offers a specialized bridal suite — a room where the bride and bridesmaids can gather and socialize while they are having their hair and makeup done.

The Baldwins hope wedding parties will make plenty of use of The Baker's Table, the new restaurant. The Urban Place website advertises it as "the perfect place for private events like bridal showers (and) rehearsal dinners."

As its name suggests, The Baker's Table restaurant is anchored by a table — an impressively massive one, hewn from beams recovered during renovations.

On one side, large windows look into a "finishing room" where pastry chefs add the final details to cakes and pastries. Adjoining the space is the Cork & Cap's newly expanded bakery.

The Baker's Table will allow the Cork & Cap's cake designers to show off their artistry, Fanning said.

"We do all our own wedding cakes," she said. "That's why we started the bakery."