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Can York sustain urban infill development?

Written by Mark Walters, York Daily Record | Feb 14, 2016 6:19 PM
urban york.JPG

The building at 353 S. George St. in York is seen here with a beam supporting a bay window. The blighted home is slated for renovation by a York developer who is planning an urban infill development project on the block. (Photo: Mark Walters, York Daily Record)

Three buildings will be taken down and two will be renovated in the 300 block of South George Street, where single-family townhouses are proposed to be built.

Raquel Bilbi believes York can do better than some of its decrepit buildings might suggest.

And those buildings should be taken down, Bilbi said inside Stephen's Versatile Multiservices. The check-cashing business at 304 S. George St. is just a few doors from a building that's set to be torn down.

The nearby building at 312 S. George St. is one of three buildings approved by the city to be taken down, according to demolition permits signed last month. Buildings at 324 and 326 S. George St. are also slated to be razed by York Redevelopment Associates. It's part of an urban infill development project that will bring 1,500-square-foot townhouses to the block that hasn't gotten much attention from developers until lately.

Nathan Roe, owner of Roe Technologies at 330 S. George St., said it's about time the buildings come down.

South George Street is a very visual part of the city, and those buildings don't make a very welcoming sight for passersby, said Joanie Nolin, a manager at St. Mary's Thrift Shop at 305 S. George St. Seeing blight in the city might make people think danger lurks, she said.

Two other properties on that block will be part of York Redevelopment's efforts to bring the urban infill model to York, said Derek Dilks, owner of the single-member company. Buildings at 308 and 353 S. George St. will be preserved and renovated, he said.

Starting with 324 and 326 S. George St., Dilks plans to take the buildings down piece by piece before purchasing the properties from the city's Redevelopment Authority -- possibly for $1, authority officials have said -- and building single-family townhouses on the lots. Discarded building materials will be donated to Re-Source York and Refindings, two local architectural salvage stores, Dilks said.

The property at 353 S. George St. is ugly and contains garbage from passersby, said Maria Ortiz, 39, who lives a few doors down. There is a beam supporting a shoddy bay window and animals have made use of the structure as well, she said.

"They have to do something," said Ortiz, who has lived on South George Street for five years.

Dilks agrees. The blighted structures bring that whole block down, he said. Getting those buildings back on the tax rolls could help bring more home ownership to York, he explained.

Work on 324 and 326 S. George St. should be completed by the end of this year, said Dilks, who has a handful of other projects around the city, including the old Citizens Bank building, the Pullman Apartments and some rehabs in the 100 block of South Beaver Street. His budget is about $150,000 per property on South George Street.

The hope for the infill model, Dilks explained, is to increase York's comparable sales model.

"If I can build for under $100 a square foot, I know I can build 10 on the Northwest Triangle and have a better chance of selling them," he said.

On Jan. 19, York City Council accepted the Historical Architectural Review Board's recommendations to demolish 312, 324 and 326 S. George St. The board voted unanimously Jan. 14 to approve the demolitions, according to the review board's meeting minutes.

The authority would need to be sure the new owner would rehabilitate the properties appropriately before selling them, Nicole Davis, economic specialist with the authority, told HARB members, according to meeting minutes.

Getting help

Dilks said he might consider applying for tax abatement programs, including the Local Economic Redevelopment Tax Abatement, or LERTA, and the Residential Tax Abatement Program, or ReTAP.

Properties for sale

A complete list of properties for sale by York's Redevelopment Authority can be viewed at yorkcity.org/redevelopment-authority by clicking on "RDA Property Master List" in the page's upper right-hand corner.

Contact Mark Walters at 771-2032 or follow him on Twitter at @walt_walters.


This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

Published in News, York

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