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Magnolia Place condos opening next year in downtown Lancaster

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Accomplished Lancaster architect John de Vitry is hoping to bring his latest city building project — Magnolia Place — to fruition by September 2014.

The 14-unit luxury condominium building, which will be constructed at North Duke and East Chestnut streets, will be the first entirely new residential condo structure built since Steeple House Square opened in 1982. That also was a de Vitry project, as was the Lancaster Arts Hotel.

"This is the best location in the downtown for this type of project," de Vitry said.

The seven-story midrise tower project is expected to be back in front of the city planning commission in early September. It could be on the City Council's agenda around mid-September.

Magnolia Place, which already has 11 reservations, will replace a small brick building that was used as a law office. The six partners — de Vitry and his wife, Macu, and two other couples — hope to get underway this fall on construction of the $6.5 million project.

Lancaster-based Caldwell, Heckles & Egan Inc. is the general contractor on the Magnolia Place building. The de Vitrys' JDVMAD Partners architectural firm is developing the building with Stephen and Anne Miller and Robert and Claudia Bledsoe.

Stephen Miller is the former director of the Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum and the retired director of the state's Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. Robert Bledsoe worked for Case New Holland and is now an international product development and innovation consultant.

"It's a walkable city, and there is something you can do almost every night," de Vitry said of Lancaster, which continues to attract a mix of restaurants, shopping and arts and entertainment venues. The project is not far from the Lancaster Central Market.

Renters and buyers are looking for that maintenance-free, one-floor living lifestyle that Magnolia Place provides, said Robert Bledsoe. Those interested in buying might be looking to downsize and move into the city from the suburbs, he said. They also might be in the market for a second home or moving to Lancaster from another sizable city.

Access to public transit and the fact it is new construction also has appeal, said Claudia Bledsoe: "People are getting in on the ground level and can help with the planning."

The first two floors of the building will be for tenant parking. Most of the units have roughly 100-square-foot private terraces. Units range in size from 1,560 square feet to 1,875 square feet, with two penthouses in the 2,500- to 2,600-square-foot range.

All of the units have open floor plans and large windows that capture natural light.

The top of the building will feature a rooftop garden that will support efforts to curb stormwater runoff. A public art display is expected to be incorporated into the project at street level, the partners said.

Price of the units ranged between $340,000 and $700,000. Remaining units were available from $459,000 to $479,000.

Stephen Miller said he expects the buzz surrounding the new project will continue to bring more people into the center of Lancaster — folks who are involved or want to be a part of the arts, culture and music scene through financial contributions or volunteer board service.

"I think Lancaster is starting to approach critical mass," Robert Bledsoe said.

The project would be included in the city's Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, or LERTA. That tax abatement program allows the city to phase real estate taxes in over a period of time.

Other condo and apartment redevelopment projects have been built or are in the process of going up in the city.

In June, the 10-unit 317 North Condominiums opened in the city's historic West End. Those units are in a former tobacco warehouse on North Mulberry Street. There are market-rate residences going in at the Lancaster Press Building, along with a new parking garage.

"I think there are some other opportunities right here in Lancaster," Miller said of upscale residential development. "If you have people coming back to the core urban areas, they are paying taxes to the city. It enhances the tax base of the city."

The partners are hopeful that other complementary development, including neighborhood grocery stores, might soon follow.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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