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RGS looking forward to downtown HQ

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When RGS Associates Inc. opened its office in downtown York a few years ago, associates were struck by the urban energy and activity that surrounded them.

It was a notable change from the quiet rural community of Brownstown in West Earl Township, where RGS' head office was located. This year, RGS decided to go urban a second time.

In December, the land planning, landscape architecture and civil engineering firm plans to close its headquarters in a Brownstown house and move to the corner of North Prince and West James streets in downtown Lancaster.

"We're looking for a similar experience and atmosphere for the Lancaster office," said RGS Principal Joel Snyder, who is masterminding the move.

RGS has 20 people in West Earl, all of whom will make the shift to Lancaster.

The new location should bolster RGS' recruiting efforts, Snyder said. Brownstown was sometimes a tough sell when the company talked to entry-level job candidates in their 20s, he said.

The company will occupy two floors of the former tobacco warehouse at 53 W. James St. The Lancaster County Community Foundation occupied the space until moving to West King Street in August, spokeswoman Tracy Cutler said.

The foundation's transition was complicated when thieves seeking copper managed to flood the West James Street building two weeks before the move. A restoration company cleaned up the mess and the mishap did not affect RGS' timetable, Snyder said.

The house in West Earl Township had limited space and was "a bit more of a maze," Snyder said. In the new space, the design staff can be consolidated on the second floor, which should facilitate collaboration, he said.

RGS considered locations ranging from the northern portion of downtown Lancaster to suburban Manheim Township around Route 30. When RGS evaluated the suburban options, however, "they weren't offering the walkability" that the city could, Snyder said.

The Lancaster Family YMCA on Harrisburg Avenue is close enough for a workout at lunchtime or after work, he said. Major nearby institutions such as Lancaster General Hospital are committed to the area, fostering its long-term stability, he said.

A Reading area-based company called Furniture Soup is handling the office remodeling and coordinating the move for RGS. The company specializes in repurposing previously used furniture in new office environments, saving money and reducing waste.

RGS found out about Furniture Soup from Wohlsen Construction Co., Snyder said. Furniture Soup designed Wohlsen's operations center on Manheim Pike, which opened in June 2011.

Much of Furniture Soup's inventory comes from Fortune 500 companies, which tend to remodel their offices on a regular basis. The furniture they discard is generally high quality and has minimal if any wear and tear, company vice president and co-owner Tracy McKay said.

"It's kind of like getting a pre-owned Lexus," she said. "The money savings are profound."

For RGS, Furniture Soup found a mix of furniture that included Knoll cherry desk units, McKay said. Furniture Soup developed a flooring pattern that complements the furniture and looks "warm and friendly," she said.

The same workers who do the remodeling also coordinate the move, McKay said. They already know the space intimately, having just built it, so they know where everything should go and how to jockey it into position.

It's best to leave a move to professionals, McKay said. It may seem cheaper to do it yourself, but "that's how people get injured and stuff gets damaged," she said.

Moreover, professionals have the "move checklist" and timetable down pat. Forget to make the right calls at the right time, and you could be waiting a week before your new space has heat or IT service, she said.

Where companies can help movers is with timely decisions about what to move where. How will old furniture be disposed of? Can old files be transferred to offsite storage? What is essential, and what can be sold or donated or disposed of before moving?

"The more straight-line you keep it … the less energy is misused," McKay said. "You don't want people to move something twice."

So far, RGS' preparations are going smoothly, Snyder said. The target date for occupying the new space is Dec. 15, which "gives us a little wiggle room" over the slow holiday season if need be, he said.

Companies need to be able to focus on their business, not a move, McKay said.

"We try to make it very cost effective and painless," she said.

Foundation coped with flood during move

Land planning firm RGS is moving into space at 53 W. James St. that the Lancaster County Community Foundation recently vacated.

The foundation’s lease had expired, and the organization was looking for offices with larger “community space” that it could share with other nonprofits, spokeswoman Tracy Cutler said.

The board considered commissioning a building but determined that leasing existing space was a better choice, Cutler said. Lancaster Newspapers Inc. owns the foundation’s new digs at 24 W. King St. and has been “very accommodating,” she said.

How so? Two weeks before the move, thieves broke into the West James Street building, intent on stealing copper pipe. Sixty thousand gallons of water poured into the foundation’s offices, flooding them, Cutler said.

In the wake of the calamity, Lancaster Newspapers provided temporary space for the foundation to use, she said. The recovery process is ongoing, but thanks to assistance from numerous local businesses, things are on track, she said.

It helped that the foundation had planned its move carefully, she said. Even with the flood, the move took place on schedule.

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