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Anatomy of a deal: Site selection for the new state archives building

In 1681, with the grant of a royal charter, William Penn founded Pennsylvania.

That historic document, preserved at the Pennsylvania State Archives, will soon have a new home at the aptly numbered 1681 N. 6th St.

Last year, the commonwealth selected a site proposed by my company for the new state archives building. In the intervening time, from the selection to the recent announcement of the site, we have been working with the commonwealth on the pre-development phase of the project.

Merits of the site

The site, located between Hamilton and Harris streets, satisfied all the requirements for the state archives.

  • Site area. It is a rare assemblage of approximately three acres.
  • Location. The site is just one-half mile from the state Capitol Complex and connected to it directly via 6th Street and Commonwealth Avenue and 7th Street.
  • Flood plain. It is outside the 500-year flood plain.
  • Public infrastructure. This corridor (the city’s “northern gateway”) connects downtown to I-81 and US-22/322. Major traffic improvements were completed in 2013 with the widening of 7th Street to four lanes and the addition of new sidewalks, antique-style street lighting, underground utilities, upgrades to the traffic signal at Maclay Street and a new traffic signal at Reily Street.

Pre-development activities

In addition to conveying property to the commonwealth, the Vartan Group was appointed as the commonwealth’s agent to amicably enter into agreements of sale with neighboring property owners. With the acquisition of neighboring parcels, the footprint of the site covers three city blocks.

We further assisted the commonwealth with the pre-development phase of the site, procuring site studies including appraisal, environmental and title reports.

Future considerations

I think it is poetic that the state archives, which preserves the history of our commonwealth, will help shape the future of the city of Harrisburg.

As a major institutional facility, it will help anchor additional development opportunities along the corridor.

It will help foster our community’s capacity for new construction, which, like a muscle, strengthens from exercise. Local contractors, tradesmen and other businesses should look forward to participating in the construction opportunities.

As the city’s comprehensive planning process continues to move forward, local leaders and planners should look to this as a learning opportunity on the potential and the challenges associated with new construction.

Local leaders should also be encouraged by the commonwealth’s commitment to once-in-a-generation projects, like this one, staying in the city.

We can all take pride in knowing that William Penn’s charter, along with nearly 300 million other historic documents, will be preserved for future generations in a magnificent new building located at 1681 N. 6th St.

H. Ralph Vartan is the CEO of Vartan Group Inc., based in Susquehanna Township.

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