It started four decades ago with the opening of Strawberry Square.
For Harristown Enterprises Inc., the mixed-use retail and commercial complex and surrounding area remain the focus.
At the start of the year, Brad Jones assumed the role of president and CEO for the organization responsible for developing and facilitating much of the revitalization efforts in downtown Harrisburg since the mid-1970s. He succeeded Russ Ford.
“Big projects like the Hilton and Strawberry Square were unique projects and set the table for Whitaker Center and greater capacity here in the downtown,” Jones said of early Harristown accomplishments.
With the 2012 sale of its hospitality affiliate — a deal that included the Hilton Harrisburg — the focus today is more on boosting residential capacity in the downtown while expanding restaurants, retail and service amenities that will also serve a growing educational hub.
“We haven’t made any major investments yet (in Strawberry Square), but we’re about to,” Jones said in talking about the hospitality deal, which freed up capital to reposition the complex and develop new projects.
Last fall, the state Department of General Services agreed to a 17-year lease with Harristown that will move about 900 state workers into 303 Walnut St., also known as the Verizon Tower in Strawberry Square. The lease will start in March 2016, though the moves will begin this year, Jones said.
The deal with the state helps the city address most of its outstanding bond obligations tied to the Verizon facility. It also helps Harristown present a better case to potential Strawberry Square tenants, Jones said, citing the vacant Gingerbread Man restaurant on Market Street.
“It may be more helpful as we start to move new employees into the tower,” he said.
A few thousand state employees work in the downtown and occupy Harristown buildings, including the so-called Revenue Tower at 393 Walnut St. and nearby 333 Market St. office.
The commonwealth lease is tied to a major energy-efficiency program that will allow Harristown to upgrade lighting, chillers, water fixtures, life safety systems and building control systems in its towers and commercial spaces.