With twin, second-floor bay windows that jut out over the street, the brick building at South Hanover Street and South Chapel Avenue is a nod to an earlier era of architecture.
The three-story duplex has been vacant for about 12 years, said Rebecca Yearick, downtown program services manager for the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities.
“It's also blighted and condemned,” she added. “As if one wasn't enough.”
The building may finally see activity once again if plans put forth by a New Jersey couple are realized. Eric and Kathleen Storms want to renovate the second floor for two upscale apartments, then turn the first-floor space into a restaurant, with a liquor license and a bar.
The Storms — Eric grew up in Dillsburg — were visiting Carlisle a few years ago and stayed at the Carlisle House, a bed-and-breakfast across South Hanover Street from the dilapidated building, then owned by Fred Dotts.
“We walked out the front door, and as we started to walk downtown, we saw the Dotts house for sale and we called the number on the sign and Fred answered,” Eric Storms recalled.
But Dotts would not yield from his $140,000 asking price, he said.
“Over the course of two years we talked to him a few times and we couldn't agree on a price,” Storms said. “Then he passed away and we bought the house from his daughter.”
The couple paid $67,500. Renovations are underway, with the Storms set to sink up to $150,000 of their own money into cleaning out the building, fixing a hole in the roof, restructuring the interior and installing new mechanical systems. So far, about 25 tons of junk and dry wall have been removed.
The Project Guy LLC, owned by Dana Storms, Eric's brother, is serving as general contractor. Phase two will involve transforming the building into apartments and the restaurant.
“The initial renovation, which makes the building inhabitable and gets it off the blighted list, we'll fund that,” Storms said. “Then we're looking for a public-private package for the business.”
Eric Storms is an independent information technology contractor, while his wife is a vice president at A&P. The couple hopes to move in to the building next spring, he said. The business opening will depend on financing and acquiring a liquor license.
The South Hanover Street site is just one of many projects Yearick is working on in downtown Carlisle. In the other downtowns on her list — Mechanicsburg and Lemoyne, for example — she focuses on beautification projects and other things.
Carlisle is about filling storefronts with retail and restaurants and drawing people back downtown. Castlerigg Wine Shop opened in November at 110 S. Hanover St. Yearick worked with borough officials to secure a $35,000 Community Development Block Grant for that project.
Nearby, the Molly Pitcher Brewing Co. is planning a September opening at 10 E. South St. The Storms' project will fit right in with those new establishments, Yearick said.
“This is a project that we're interested in for a variety of reasons,” she said, adding that the two blocks south of the square are short on restaurant/tavern businesses.
The retail/restaurant mix is helping Carlisle to offset losses such as Hoffman-Roth Funeral Home and Crematory, which is moving from North Hanover Street to North Middleton Township. The borough is also pleased with the building upgrades that accompany the new businesses, Councilman Sean Shultz said.
“Those buildings have been underutilized and deteriorating, and now they are about to get a much-needed infusion of investment and renovation,” he said.
The public-private financing deals can include borough, county and state funds, along with low-interest loans. Not just anyone can get a loan, however, Yearick said, and not everyone can meet the stringent requirements.
For example, business owners are generally expected to make improvements “inside and out, top to bottom,” she said. And if the business is relocated or sold during the life of the loan, the money must be repaid. Yearick said she has a lot of “get real” meetings with budding entrepreneurs who think they can conquer the downtown market.
“We are very cautious. We do an immense amount of hand-holding,” she said. “I've never had a loan go south, and I'm not about to start now.”
The Storms also have an apartment in Nyack, N.Y., and Eric Storms sees similarities to Carlisle for what the borough could be.
“It's this trendy little place where people come to hang out,” he said. “Carlisle could have a similar story. I think younger people are more interested in living in an urban setting.”
Funding a renewal
Carlisle borough and Cumberland County officials are working with several business owners on downtown start-ups. Here are some recent projects that received public funding:
• Molly Pitcher Brewing Co., 10 E. South St. Financed with a $100,000 state Department of Community and Economic Development loan, a $60,000 CDBG grant through the borough, and $85,000 in owner equity.
The project is being developed by four borough residents: Mike Moll, Zach Ziegler, Tim Fourlas and Brandon Bear. They hope to open the business in September.
• Carlisle Bakery, 35 S. Hanover St. A $75,000 project, the bakery opened in the spring of 2012 with $35,000 in CDBG funding for owners John and Nadeen Bogonis. The business was sold to Eric Bell, an employee, in June 2014, meaning the Bogonises had to repay the loan in full.
• Castlerigg Wine Shop, 110 S. Hanover St. The shop opened in November, a $90,000 project that received $45,000 in CDBG funding. Alan Tumblin is the owner.
• 2nd Time Around, 16 N. Hanover St. A women’s and children’s consignment clothing store. Opened by Robyn Dingle with a $20,000 “shopsteading” loan provided by the borough and the county redevelopment authority.
• Harmony Society, 136 W. High St. “Bohemian-style fashions” for men and women. Owned by Amber Martin, the store received an $18,000 “shopsteading” loan provided by the borough.
Source: The Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities