Former midtown Harrisburg department store turned into apartments

Gerber’s Department Store at 1507 N. Third St. PHOTO/PROVIDED

After he moved to Harrisburg from Manassas, Virginia, in 2014, attorney Nate Foote decided to buy a pair of duplexes to renovate into rentals.

He was told by some, however, that it wasn’t a good investment.

But Foote believed in the revitalization potential of the capital city, and went ahead with the projects.

Today, he sees a metro area alive with redevelopment. And Foote has embarked on a new initiative, turning the long-vacant former Gerber’s Department Store at 1507 N. Third St. in midtown Harrisburg into five market-rate apartments.

The century-old building, on which the “Carpets and Draperies” sign still hangs on the façade, will have a commercial space and two one-bedroom units on the first floor; a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment and a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on the second floor; and a 1,655-square-foot two-bedroom unit covering the top floor.

Foote, a partner in Andreozzi + Foote, which specializes in child abuse litigation, plans to reside in the third-floor rental, he said. The others start at 600 square feet, and one of the one-bedroom apartments comes with a bonus space that could be a second bedroom.

Rents are yet to be determined. “It depends on the interest,” Foote said. “It’s a cool, historic building.”

The total square footage is about 5,500, and 800 or so of that is the retail unit that will be occupied by Broad Street Market vendor Raising the Bar, which will operate a bakery/café. “It’s going to be really nice,” he said.

Owners Casey Callahan and Timishia Goodson opened their market stand, which they will keep, in 2016. As the business has grown, finding a larger production space became a priority.

The new location of Raising the Bar will offer the couple’s staples, including breads, baguettes, croissants, dessert bars, cookies, meals and seasonal menu items – made with local ingredients – and expand to sell sandwiches and coffee.

Raising the Bar is moving in shortly, Foote said, and he plans to start leasing the rentals Sept. 1. Showings will begin next month.

Two of the apartments, out the back, will have decks, and two in the front will boast floor-to-ceiling windows as a centerpiece. The repainted “Carpets and Draperies” sign will also be lit up.

Another highlight is a large, abstract, multi-story wall mural by Harrisburg artist Tara Chickey, of Sprocket Mural Works, featuring splashes of pink, yellow, purple and blue.

Inside, the units are equipped with stainless-steel appliances and tile bathrooms. Harrisburg Commercial Interiors is the contractor for the renovation.

Gerber’s Department Store at 1507 N. Third Street today. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Urban areas being rediscovered

In doing research on Gerber’s Department Store, heralded as “The Pride of Upper Harrisburg,” Foote discovered a newspaper ad announcing the business’ October 1922 grand opening.

The building housed other commercial enterprises in the intervening years, but had been empty since the mid-2000s, falling into blight and disrepair.

“It’s been on the market for years but was not quite big enough get the interest of a large-scale developer,” Foote said.

With the new federal courthouse being constructed just a few blocks away, there are a lot of mixed-use projects proposed for that area, he said.

“I’m in the heart of it all,” Foote said. In the next five to 10 years, midtown “is going to be a very different place.”

He paid $180,000 for the building, purchasing it from Mussani & Matz Co., Schnecksville, and expects to invest more than $700,000 overall. The project received letters of support from, among others, the Historic Harrisburg Association’s preservation committee, Harristown Enterprises Inc. and the nearby Susquehanna Art Museum.

Before coming to the area, Foote said he saw Washington, D.C., become transformed as people rediscovered neglected neighborhoods there and elsewhere.

Now this urban trend has arrived in smaller cities, which are more affordable than their larger counterparts, one of just many benefits they offer, he said.

In some small way, with his investment in midtown, Foote said, “I want to be part of that coming to Harrisburg.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer