Susquehanna Esports has a home in Harrisburg’s SoMA neighborhood

Susquehanna Esports, Harrisburg’s first professional esports organization, has found a downtown home.

The new organization, which has two teams that each compete as the Susquehanna Soniqs, has leased two spaces from Harristown Enterprises in SoMA, or the South of Market neighborhood on South Third Street.

Susquehanna Esports will establish its headquarters at 21 S. Third St., a 4,100-square-foot office space where the pro teams will have custom-designed training rooms, or pods, for gaming and streaming needs, said the organization’s general manager, Darren Moore.

Moore said the organization also is planning to use 19 S. Third St., a three-story row building with about 1,200 square feet of first-floor retail space, for future expansion. The apartments could be used for team housing while the storefront could be used to sell team merchandise.

Susquehanna Esports is led by a group of regional investors, including Select Medical Corp. executive chairman Robert Ortenzio.

The esports group has a five-member team that plays Rainbow Six Siege, a tactical shooter video game. The other is a four-player team that competes in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, also known as PUBG, a multiplayer online battle game.


Harristown begins $1.2M apartment project at historic Fox Hotel

Harristown Enterprises is renovating the former Fox Hotel building in downtown Harrisburg for a small apartment project. (Photo: File)

Harristown Enterprises is starting construction on two apartment projects in downtown Harrisburg that will double the organization’s rental portfolio.

The city-based developer is renovating connected buildings at 116 and 124 Pine St, both formerly used as offices. The $12 million conversion project, expected to wrap up next winter, will create 74 apartments, including 50 one-bedroom units and 24 two-bedroom units.

Meanwhile, Harristown has just started on a smaller 8-unit apartment project at the former Fox Hotel building at 236 S. Second St. The 7,000-square-foot building will include six one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom units.

“These will go fast,” said Brad Jones, Harristown’s president and CEO.

The Fox project, dubbed The Fox on Washington, will cost about $1.2 million and should be done by January.

The property, which is at Second and Washington streets, was built in 1906 for hotelier Otto Fox. In the 1930s, it became Santanna’s Seafood House, a popular dining spot for five decades. UPMC Pinnacle acquired the property in 1987, but it sat mostly empty since, with Harristown buying it last year.

Like many of its projects, Harristown is partnering with another investor on the renovations. Lower Allen Township-based Select Capital Commercial Properties , which invested in the Pine Street project, is the financial partner on the Fox project.

Jones said rents will range from about $1,100 per month for the one-bedroom units to about $1,350 per month for the two-bedroom units. Trinity Construction of Steelton is the contractor on the project and Camp Hill-based By Design Consultants Inc. is the architect.

Together, the two apartment projects will push Harristown to 154 apartments from 72. And Jones continues to look for new opportunities as demand for a limited supply of downtown rental properties remains high. As previous units from Harristown and other developers have opened downtown over the last few years, they have been quickly occupied.

Jones said there is an “outside chance of residential” on Market Square, where Harristown owns 21 S. Second St. and 17 S. Market Square. Harristown’s plan is to do a $10 million commercial office and retail redevelopment project, which would include a new six-story tower at 21 S. Second St. that would be connected to 17 S. Market Square.


Guest view: National Small Business Week an invitation for new neighbors

National Small Business Week on May 5-11 is the formal recognition of entrepreneurs, mom and pop shops and small businesses with generally fewer than 100 employees. While the Fortune 500s might grab more national economic headlines, it’s small businesses that truly define a region and give it character, vibrancy and a sense of place.

With more than 25 small business tenants in our Central Pennsylvania portfolio of plazas, we have deep appreciation for the hard work, risk and resilience of Pennsylvania’s nearly 1 million small businesses. They account for 99.7% of all business in the U.S., employ 56.8 million people and provided 1.9 million net new jobs in 2018. They are the drivers of our economy. Where they go, our neighborhoods go.

One of the most important decisions a small business owner makes is where to call home; and for retail and office space, entrepreneurs need an affordable and accessible location in a growing community. They need a landlord who understands the unique experiences of small business.

It’s hard to find an article or TV show about commercial real estate development that doesn’t position the developer or commercial property owner as an antagonist. This makes an intriguing and impassioned storyline, but I’m happy to report it’s not our region’s normal.

Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown Enterprises and owner of the near-capacity Strawberry Square, is intentional about attracting small business owners like Amma Johnson, owner of fashion retailer Amma Jo, and Shaun Donovan, a first-timer in the organic, independent grocery space with Provisions. “We need their passion and authenticity. They are the fresh faces of our city — informal brand ambassadors. Rite Aid and Sprint add critical services, but Little Amps and Best Friends Day Care keep people connected to our community. Attracting small businesses is what will sustain our future,” says Brad.

At Neighbors & Smith, our newest redevelopment site on Market Street in Camp Hill, every existing and ready-to-sign tenant is a woman-owned small business. A trend to support local works both ways. Local property ownership matters to them, and they feel more secure knowing we don’t outsource our eyes.  Small-shop retailers may need additional services to grow — marketing and PR support, build-out support and less complicated leases. They benefit significantly from our Plaza-wide events like Healthy Neighbors Fest and the Wicked Spooky Party aimed at bringing more foot traffic to their stores and giving back to the community.

How does the rising number of small businesses impact our region? And what does it reveal about the economy? When small business thrives, the entire neighborhood benefits. With each new store opening, there is a higher percentage of reinvestment back into our community. We appreciate our national anchor tenants, but they are more likely to tap corporate’s available services than to use our local talent for marketing support or local printers to print collateral pieces.

When boutique chocolatiers, artisan jewelers, trendy clothiers and tea and coffee shops flourish, it demonstrates the power and potential of a good address in a walkable community. On Market Street in Camp Hill, there are 44 women-owned small businesses. This statistic is revealing, not only declaring consumer preferences to shop small, but as a leading indicator of the economy and rising consumer confidence. It signals that financing and SBA loans are more accessible to a segment often forced to resort to non-conventional funding. Three of the existing tenants in the process of transitioning to Neighbors & Smith are expanding in both square footage and product lines.

In July 2016, Urban Land Institute, an international land use organization, was invited to Camp Hill Borough for a two-day Technical Assistance Panel. Professionals from around the country were tasked with developing a plan to promote a vibrant business corridor. After interviewing 26 stakeholders and business owners, they outlined formal recommendations with long-term goals like streetscape improvements and quick fixes to improve the pedestrian experience.

Their report was well-received and remains the framework for creating a more vibrant commercial district. Thanks to the record number of small businesses, the Downtown Camp Hill Association was formed and is emphasizing a walkable, shopable, family-friendly Market Street full of places where people are coming together.

We look forward to adding more small and women-owned businesses at our properties with new opportunities to connect beyond buying and selling. We’re grateful for their partnerships, their job creation, their unique products, and the social connections they bring to our cities and towns.

The invitation is open.

Richard E. Jordan III. president and CEO, Smith Land & Improvement Corp.

Richard E. Jordan III is president and CEO of Smith Land & Improvement Corporation, a commercial real estate development firm headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected].

In Harrisburg, Sara Bozich helping to keep the buzz alive

Sara Bozich runs SaraBozich.com, an experiential marketing company that organizes events like pop-up happy hours, downtown block parties and festivals. (Photo: Submitted)

Sara Bozich doesn’t shy away from that beer girl image people may have of her.

She embraces it because, well, many of her clients are craft breweries — some even have the word shy in their name.

Bozich also is one of the founders of Harrisburg Beer Week, an annual event that kicks off Friday in the greater Harrisburg area, and she’s promoted the craft-beer scene as much as anyone for more than a decade.

“I like being known as somebody who knows about fine things to drink,” said Bozich, who runs an experiential marketing company that organizes events like pop-up happy hours, downtown block parties and festivals.

Bozich’s company, SaraBozich.com, also provides promotion and social media services for boutique retailers and restaurants, community events and, yes, craft breweries that the 40-year-old Lower Allen Township resident has met over the years.

That business, which caught on after she left the state House communications office in 2012, largely spawned from her experiences in her 20s and 30s as a travel blogger and longtime entertainment columnist at PennLive.

She said many people still see her as that columnist, where she wrote “Out with Sara” from 2003 to 2015.

The weekly column documented the evolving bar and restaurant scene in Harrisburg, which she was part of developing as a young marketing director for nightclub king Ron Kamionka.

Bozich also wrote about her craft-beer experiences and industry trends, which exposed her to many people and opened up marketing opportunities for her to build a small business.

“It’s almost like people were waiting for me to do it,” she said of the business named after her.

Her media column and personal blog following would help her become Harrisburg’s unofficial ambassador for things to do and a regional influencer before social media took off.

It’s a role she enjoys and is good at. She said she likes getting to know brewers and restaurant owners and telling their stories, or sharing her experience at a new establishment so potential customers understand what makes a place interesting.

She also has years of those experiences and connections that are helping her diversify into new areas, including event planning for non-traditional clients like law firms who want to showcase a new office space but also want to give their clients a cool experience. She is hoping to grow that part of her company.

“Being a resource to other people about alcohol is fine with me,” she said.

Brad Jones, president and CEO of Harristown Enterprises, has used her connections and expertise to liven up the downtown around Strawberry Square for the past few years.

“We want to do something to activate the space between 4 and 6 p.m. and bring more life in the square,” Jones said of pop-up events that bring local food and alcohol vendors together.

Harristown also partners with Bozich on a block party in SoMA, or the South of Market neighborhood on South Third Street. Jones also opened a pop-up tasting room there called [email protected] to showcase a rotating list of Pennsylvania breweries, wineries and distilleries booked by Bozich.

“She helps us leverage a much bigger audience,” Jones said. “She has a good knack for what will work on the event side.”

He believes those events not only bring more people downtown to Harrisburg, but they also expose the craft producers to the city. His long-term goal with events is to sign more leases and create more permanent homes for new restaurants, retailers and other businesses.

“It’s about keeping the buzz alive,” Jones said.

Dan LaBert, executive director of the Brewers of Pennsylvania, a trade group for the craft-beer producers, said he gives Bozich a lot of credit for helping to build the beer buzz in the Harrisburg area.

He said Harrisburg Beer Week, which is now in its fifth year, is one of the reasons the state brewer’s guild moved its annual Meeting of the Malts event to Hershey this year. That event, which attracts some of the biggest names in craft beer, will be held Thursday.

“For the Harrisburg region, she is a future forward thinker on how to continue to build that scene,” LaBert said, having gotten to know Bozich through a statewide craft-beer documentary she was part of making at Harrisburg-based GK Visual. “She was in front of the social scene way before Twitter and built her own following and her own brand. She built her brand for fun and it became a business.”

Bozich credits the film, “Poured in PA,” and the growth of beer week, which she organizes with a small group of friends, for exposing her to new business opportunities. Many of her small business relationships start as vendor partnerships at happy hour events and lead to ongoing promotion and social media services.

“Most social media work is best handled in-house, but some small businesses don’t have that expertise or desire to do it,” she said, adding that most also don’t have the budget to maintain it on their own.

Some of her newest clients like Shy Bear Brewing in Lewistown also are from outside the Harrisburg area, which helps extend her brand.

“I do think it’s going to grow and get bigger,” she said, hoping to add full-time employees as the business evolves.

She currently has just one contract employee and two event assistants to help run events that she produces. Beer week is a nonprofit volunteer event led by Bozich, Chelsie Markel, Colleen Nguyen, Tierney Pomone and Jimi Werner. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Harrisburg River Rescue & Emergency Services.

Bozich said she would like to do more full-service social media and email marketing. She also plans to add new events to her calendar, including a fall social event that is in the works with Harristown in Strawberry Square.

She said she wants to give people experiences and believes downtown Harrisburg needs to lead the way.