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

F&M Trust completes purchase of new headquarters

A rendering of F&M’s new headquarters at Nitterhouse Drive, Chambersburg. The bank recently purchased the building for $7 and intends to finish renovations next year. PHOTO PROVIDED

F&M Trust has completed the purchase of its new headquarters, the former Danfoss manufacturing facility at 1500 Nitterhouse Drive, Chambersburg.

The Chambersburg-based bank announced on Thursday that it purchased the 67,000-square-foot building for $7 million from CFDC, LLC, an entity jointly owned by the Franklin County Area Development Corp. and Chambersburg Area Development Corp.

In anticipation of the move, F&M sold its 20 South Main Street headquarters to CFDC for $3.3 million and entered a lease agreement until renovations are complete at the new facility in late 2022.

Renovations to the 1500 Nitterhouse Drive building are estimated at $8.7 million. When finished, the building will house roughly 145 employees with the capacity for additional employees as the bank continues to grow.

F&M first announced its intentions to purchase the building in 2019 with an estimated move in date of 2020.

“Due to the pandemic, we decided to temporarily put our plans on hold so that we could focus on other priorities, including taking care of our customers and communities. It was always our intention to move forward with this project, and we are excited to complete this phase,” said Timothy Henry, president and CEO of F&M Trust. “The purchase of this facility marks the latest step in the growth of F&M Trust as we are taking decisive action to build for the future. I appreciate the support and patience exhibited by the CFDC, the bank’s board of directors and employees, as well as many others, and I look forward to the expansion of our bank’s reach and capabilities.”

Franklin Financial Services Corp. (FFSC), the bank holding company of F&M, reported consolidated earnings of $5.3 million for this year’s second quarter. The earnings mark a considerable jump in funds compared to the company’s $3.1 million in earnings in the second quarter of 2020.

For the third quarter of 2021, F&M expects to see a pre-tax gain of $1.8 million thanks to the sale of the 20 South Main Street property.

For its third quarter, FFSC’s Board of Directors declared a $0.32 per share regular quarterly cash dividend, compared to a $0.31 per share regular cash dividend last quarter.

“Franklin Financial’s second quarter financial performance continued to build off of the last three quarters, beginning in 2020, with robust noninterest income generated by our Residential Lending and Investment & Trust Services departments and minimal new credit quality issues. As a result of our increased clarity in regard to our loan quality, the Board of Directors declared a $0.32 per share regular cash dividend for the third quarter of 2021, which represents a 3.2% increase from last quarter and a 6.6% increase over the first quarter,” said Henry.


UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg opens new pediatric unit

UPMC Pinnacle officially opened its new pediatric inpatient unit at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg last week.

The Harrisburg-based health system announced early last month that it would be investing $17 million to expand its current inpatient pediatric care offerings on the hospital’s ninth floor to an entire children’s inpatient unit.

The system announced on Tuesday that it completed the first phase of the new unit, totaling $12 million. The new pediatric inpatient unit includes 11 new, private rooms designed to allow patients to stay in one room during their entire stay.

As part of the new project, pediatric patients will also receive telecare from specialists at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“Since Pinnacle hospitals were merged into the UPMC network in 2017, UPMC has invested $910 million to the hospitals to elevate the level of care we provide,” said Philip Guarneschelli, president of UPMC Pinnacle. “This re-investment, including our new $12 million UPMC Children’s Harrisburg, represents UPMC’s commitment to offering world-class care to the people of south central Pennsylvania.”

Dr. Chris Mmuo, vice chairman of pediatrics and director of the pediatric hospitalist program at UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg, said that the 11 new private rooms will allow the entire patient stay to be more consistent since the patient will have the same care team from start to finish.

“Seeing the same providers, nurses, and support staff each day builds trust and improves outcomes” said Mmuo. “Each room is also equipped with all the technology needed to provide care at the bedside.”

Along with the new unit, UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg now offers real-time consultations with more than 400 specialty care providers and access to board-certified pediatric emergency medicine physicians at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The additional contact with UPMC physicians will allow the new unit to provide enhanced pediatric care 24/7, according to Mark Sevco, president of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“Through this affiliation with UPMC Children’s, we will bring unmatched pediatric expertise to children with acute illnesses and injuries in south central PA and other areas throughout the region,” Sevco said.

UPMC Pinnacle welcomed its first young patient to the unit on Nov. 9.

Penn State Health moves forward on two expansions to Milton S. Hershey Med Center

Penn State Health is developing two projects at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center that will cost more than $37 million in renovations and expansions.

The Hershey-based health system announced last month that its Board of Trustees approved an expansion to the hospital’s medical intensive care unit and renovations on the ground floor for a new Department of Radiation Oncology.

Both projects are scheduled to finish in 2022 and will improve access to specialized health care services that in high demand on the Hershey campus, according to a written statement.

The $12 million renovations to the hospital’s ground floor for the Radiation Oncology department began in July and will allow the use of specialized imaging technology with greater precision when treating tumors, officials said. Offices and conference rooms previously on the ground floor will be moved to non-clinical space elsewhere in the hospital.

The renovations were designed by BDA Architects of Clark Summit and will be finished in multiple phases by February 2022.

Penn State Health also plans to renovate the seventh floor of the hospital’s south addition. Currently the floor houses the Neonatal Care Unit, Continuing Care Nursery and Pediatrics Progressive Care, which will move when the Children’s Hospital expansion is completed this fall.

When that move is complete, the Medical Intensive Care Unit, now on the sixth floor, will move in. The change will allow the unit to expand from 16 beds to 24. The unit is also expected to include a nurse and physician workspace, equipment storage, anesthesia space and soiled and clean storage.

FLAD Architects of Madison, Wisconsin is currently designing the renovations to the floor. The project is planned to begin in fall 2020 and completed in spring 2022.

Harrisburg’s indie movie theater looks to stand out with new renovations.

Midtown Cinema in Harrisburg will begin renovations on its façade next month in an effort to make the theater more immediately recognizable to movie goers. (Photo: Ioannis Pashakis)

Harrisburg’s local movie theater boasts eclectic films and a nostalgic concessions space, but potential customers passing by Midtown Cinema, with its “Reily Midtown Center” sign atop an unassuming building, may not know what they are missing.

That is exactly what the 17-year-old movie theater’s owners hope to fix with a series of upcoming renovations at the cinema’s Reily Street building. John Tierney purchased Midtown Cinema in 2013 and brought the theater out of the red in recent years with a membership program and popular events like Down in Front and Third in the Burg.

Despite that growth, the theater’s façade has proven to confuse many potential customers who could become longtime members.

The company is currently finalizing plans for a new façade for the building, one that its owners think will tell the theater’s story better and be more enticing to passersby.

“It’s a difficult balance to update the theater and give it a better street presence so people understand that it’s a theater,” Tierney said. “So many people drive or walk by and have no idea what’s in the building.”

Formerly a blood plasma center, and before that a grocery store, Midtown Cinema’s building looks similar to when it first opened, save for a mural on its side.

Inside, the concessions stand and box office are in front of a long chalkboard spanning the wall with neatly written movie times and a menu of snacks and refreshments. Across from the box office at the other side of the building is a sitting area where customers can wait for their film, play games and buy records before heading past concessions and in to one of the cinema’s three theaters.

On Feb. 10, the theater plans to begin renovations that will include soundproofing of three theaters and an overhaul of Midtown Cinema’s façade, concessions stand, box office and seating area.

The first piece of the project will be the façade, which would replace the theater’s current sign with a lit “Midtown Cinema” sign and lit locations for movie posters. The modern façade will also have an outdoor seating area attached that patrons can take advantage of in the summer months.

“(With the updates to the façade) we will look like a movie theater,” said Stuart Landon, director of community engagement for Midtown Cinema. “But in addition, we will look like the arts institution we are as well as a place you can go and think and expand your mind.”

The new set of renovations are not the first that Midtown Cinema has seen since it was purchased by Tierney. In 2013, the Harrisburg theater invested nearly $250,000 in upgrading its screens and moving to digital projectors.

A rendering by Rich Gribble of ByDesign shows Midtown Cinema’s upcoming facade renovations. The modernized entrance, with a new sign and lit movie posters will connect to a small outdoor seating area. (Photo Provided)

Inside the theater

Renovations are scheduled to finish in June, in time for the theater’s annual Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival. But some aspects of the project, like the changes to the concessions stand and box office, have yet to be decided on.

The owners are considering adding more points of sale at the concession stand to allow staff members to follow each customer through the process of buying a ticket and concessions without passing them off to someone else.

“It’s the relationship you have with a bartender versus a bank teller,” said Landon. “I want to offer an experience where our members will want to come back.”

Both Landon and Tierney emphasized the importance of Midtown Cinema’s staff as film fanatics themselves, with many customers coming into the theater to ask a staff member what they think they should see.

Other changes to the concessions stand could include adding foods such as paninis and sandwiches to the menu, separating the concession’s ice cream and coffee offerings to their own standalone space in the building and selling beer from concessions.

The separate ice cream and coffee stands would most likely be placed in the newly renovated sitting area. Midtown Cinema plans to look into removing the ceiling of the lobby, which would include concessions, the box office and the sitting area, in hopes that the room has similar high ceilings as Zeroday Brewing Co., a brewer located in the same building.

The sitting area in the lobby will be opened up to connect with the outside seating and will feature the building’s former “Reily Midtown Center” sign on one of its walls.

Midtown Cinema Member Roger Chappelka noted that the lobby’s sitting area has always been a meeting place to play a game of Parcheesi before a show and it would have been a shame if the theater didn’t continue to offer the space.

“I like the lobby,” he said. “You walk in on the right and there are chairs and games to play. On the left-hand side you can get a coffee, sit and drink and take it into the theater with you.”

Midtown Cinema’s chalk wall is a well-loved feature of the theater and its owners are looking to preserve part of it while also introducing digital signage. (Photo: Ioannis Pashakis)

Recent Growth

At the beginning of the decade, Midtown Cinema’s revenue was consistently in the red, with the theater losing between $20,000 and $100,000 annually, said Tierney.

Midtown Cinema had an upward swing in profits when it created its membership program in 2015, an increase that helped its owners afford to make this year’s renovations.

The theater’s 2,500 members pay an annual fee for reduced tickets, monthly membership perks and advanced screenings. The theater’s other events also increased foot traffic from non-member theater goers like Midtown Cinema’s monthly Third in the Burg $3 screenings.

In 2018 the theater experienced one of its best years in its history, but Tierney noted that it was followed by a middling 2019.

“This year was a struggle,” he said. “I would say it was close to breaking even.”

When 2020’s renovations are completed and the building can no longer be confused for a super market or a blood transfusion center, Midtown Cinema’s owners expect to see new members interested in the theater’s indie offerings.

“People say we are a hidden gem and I don’t want us to be a hidden gem,” Landon said. “I want us to be a gem.”

WellSpan Ephrata Cancer Center sees $7.1 million in renovations


WellSpan Health is investing $7.1 to renovate its 20-year-old WellSpan Ephrata Cancer Center, adding a pharmacy to prepare infusion medications for patients, and new radiation treatment technology, including a True-Beam linear accelerator, to offer more accurate treatment.

The health system announced Monday that the center is also redesigning its treatment areas for both radiation and oncology patients based on input from its patients.

Oncology patients receiving infusion and chemotherapy treatments will have larger individual patient bays to allow more space for family to accompany them to treatment. The center’s radiation services will also be updated and will bring the waiting room closer to the radiation treatment area.

Plans include taking the center’s patient support services, such as financial counseling and social work, to the front of the center.

“We are excited about the work that is being done, because it allows us to offer up-to-date, comprehensive cancer care to our patients in their own community,” said Carrie Willetts, senior vice president at WellSpan Health and president of WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. “The renovated center marries high-tech treatment and a patient-friendly layout designed to provide the best experience for patients during what is often a challenging time.”

The project, which began in July, is expected to be completed by spring.

WellSpan recently broke ground on a $45 million expansion to its WellSpan York Cancer Center in York Township that will add approximately 16,900 square feet to the 84,000-square-foot center.

The health system also operates cancer care centers in Hanover, Gettysburg, Chambersburg, Lebanon and York.