$8M in tax credits go to renovation of former Bulova building in Lancaster

David Martens, president and CFO of Pittsburgh-based Zamagias Properties, center, discusses renovations and financing of the former Bulova building in downtown Lancaster. Also pictured from left are Dan Betancourt, Community First Fund, and Mike Sturla, Lancaster County Representative. - (Photo / Lenay Ruhl)

Pittsburgh developer Zamagias Properties has cleared another hurdle in its journey to renovate a long-vacant building in downtown Lancaster.

Local stakeholders gathered with leaders of Zamagias Monday afternoon to announce federal financial incentives for the renovation of the former Bulova building at 101 N. Queen St.

Community First Fund is allocating $8 million in New Markets Tax Credits to Zamagias for the $28.5 million mixed-use project, which involves renovating more than 150,000 square feet of space in the heart of downtown Lancaster.

“This project will convert the most important, undeveloped property in the city into a hub of activity,” said Dan Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First. “It will make a significant impact on those that live and work in the city of Lancaster.”

Under the New Markets Tax Credits program, which is administered by the federal government, local community development entities such as Community First are awarded the right to distribute tax credits to investors in areas where at least 20 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty rate.

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry received the same tax credits for its new building on East King Street. Other midstate projects, including a new strip mall announced last week in Lebanon, also have benefited from tax credits available from Community First.

Community First so far has allocated $40 million of the $45 million it has available in credits.

Zamagias aims to transform the Bulova building by creating 21,000 square feet of retail space and 90,000 square feet of offices. The rest of the building will be residential space and some parking.  

Zamagias has committed to making 20 percent of the residential space affordable housing.

Renovations are  expected to be complete in 2019. The project will create 195 full-time jobs once it is open, as well as 45 construction jobs.

Zamagias and its local partners on the project – Lefever Funk Architects, RGS Associates, Warfel Construction and PPM Real Estate Inc. – have their work cut out for them.

The Bulova building has been empty since 2008 when Bulova Technologies, a one-time subsidiary of the Bulova Watch Co., moved out. Before that it was a department store. Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray on Monday reminisced about shopping there in the 1970s.

The building has been identified for several years as a target of redevelopment efforts in Lancaster, and mostly just its shell remains.

Putting new life back into the building “is a win-win for the city,” Gray said.

Lenay Ruhl

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