Vacant apartments hard to come by in central Pa.

Harrisburg’s rental market was the third most competitive in the nation according to RentCafe. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

Buffeted by high demand and limited supply, the Harrisburg rental market was the third most competitive in the nation as the calendar turned to 2023. The data is from the latest rental report by RentCafe, which defines the Harrisburg rental market as being composed of Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.

Commenting on the numbers, Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence with Yardi Matrix, emailed: “Housing competition is building up in undersupplied renter hubs on the East Coast, especially with the impact of the continuing ability to work from home and tech industrial job migration to smaller communities.”

More specifically, a prospective renter in the greater Harrisburg market competed with 10 others to secure a vacant rental at the start of this year. Ressler said that’s slightly more than the national average of eight.

Digging deeper, 96% of apartments in Harrisburg are already occupied, with more than three-quarters – 76% – of renters renewing their leases. Vacant units get rented within 38 days, consistent with the national average.

RentCafe analyzed Yardi Systems’ apartment data for 134 U.S. markets, which were ranked based on a market competitive score. To calculate that, RentCafe ranked them according to five metrics and their averages for October through December 2022: apartment occupancy rate; average total days vacant; prospective renters per vacant unit; renewal lease rate; and share of new apartments completed during the same timeframe compared to the existing overall supply at the start of the fourth quarter of 2022.

An average ranking was achieved by assigning a percentage weight for each: 30% for apartment occupancy rate; 15% for average vacant days; 15% for prospective renters per vacant unit; 30% for renewal lease rate; and 10% for the share of new apartments.

Based on the metrics, Harrisburg had a Rental Competitivity Index of 111 (tied with Grand Rapids, Michigan). That’s almost twice as much as the national RCI score at the start of the year of 60, which is considered a moderately competitive market.

Two other Pennsylvania markets made the top 20 nationally in RCI: suburban Philadelphia, 85, and Pittsburgh, 80.

A major issue in the greater Harrisburg market is supply, said Brad Mowbray, senior vice president and managing director of the residential division of High Real Estate Group.

There’s little new construction being added to the mix right now to meet high demand, he said. Many projects are in the pipeline – thousands of rentals are being planned in Lancaster city alone – but are delayed due to cost or other reasons.

If every apartment project currently proposed were suddenly built, that would increase Lancaster County’s rental units by 35%, Mowbray said.

However, it still wouldn’t be enough, he said, especially for workforce housing, which the Urban Land Institute defines as housing affordable to households earning between 60% and 120% of area median income.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Reel Cinemas opening in Manheim Township

Reel Cinemas Lancaster is set to open Nov. 8 at The Crossings at Conestoga Creek in Manheim Township. (Photo: Submitted) –

Lancaster County’s newest movie theater is set to open by the end of the week.

The grand opening of Reel Cinemas at The Crossings at Conestoga Creek in Manheim Township takes place on Friday.

The 24,225-square-foot boutique cinema features seven state-of-the-art screens and an in-theater restaurant offering food and drink, including beer wine and cocktails, for guests before, during or after shows.

Reel Cinemas was developed by East Lampeter Township-based High Real Estate Group LLC as part of the $120 million, 65,000-square-foot development at 1500 Christopher Place that also includes Wegmans supermarket, Miller’s Ale House, a 127-room Residence Inn and luxury apartments.

“The grand opening of Reel Cinemas marks a major milestone on our journey to create a modern dining, shopping and entertainment community at The Crossing at Conestoga Creek,” said Mark Fitzgerald, president and COO of High Real Estate Group and High Associates. “The theater itself offers a unique entertainment experience that Lancaster hasn’t seen before. Together with Reel Cinemas, High Real Estate Group is proud to introduce this new multiplex to our community.”

The 682-seat multiplex theater is the first in Lancaster County to use laser projections for its screens providing crisper pictures. The theater’s main auditorium is also equipped with Dolby Atmos sound, a realistic sound system used in IMAX theaters utilizing 70 speakers distributed throughout the space. The six other theaters use Dolby 7.1 sound, which has become the leading sound system for new theaters.

Besides the audio-visual experience, the theater also features heated leather reclining seats with a swivel table for food and drinks. Menu items include brick-oven pizzas, salads, wraps and traditional movie concession items, along with craft beer, wine and handcrafted cocktails.

By the end of the month, heater attendees will be able to place online food and beverage orders and have them ready to be picked up when they arrive for their movie.

Reel Cinemas Lancaster LLC is an affiliate of Narbeth, Montgomery County-based Reel Cinemas Inc. The cinema owns and operates two theaters on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia.

“Reel Cinemas Lancaster is a representation of the next generation of movie theaters, which brings together convenience, technology, entertainment and dining for a modern-day experience,” said Greg Wax, president and CEO of Reel Cinemas. “From our luxury reclining seats to laser projections and quality food and beverage options, our new multiplex brings a totally new theater-going experience to our community in Lancaster.”

High Real Estate building $30M luxury apartment complex

High Real Estate Group is building a 175-unit luxury apartment complex in Chester County. Pictured is a rendering of The Flats at Kennett. (Photo: Submitted)

High Real Estate Group LLC will break ground Wednesday afternoon on a $30 million, 175-unit luxury apartment complex in Chester County.

The Flats at Kennett, located in downtown Kennett Square, will feature three four-story buildings with a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with private balconies. The total project calls for 230,000 square feet of  space.

High, based in East Lampeter Township, said leasing will begin in spring 2020 with occupancy expected by late summer 2020.

The company, which is part of High Companies, owns and operates more than 2,500 apartments in Lancaster and Montgomery counties and down into the Carolinas.

High is currently developing The Crossings at Conestoga Creek, a mixed-use project across from Long’s Park on Harrisburg Pike in Manheim Township. It includes 258 upscale apartments.