"East Side Renaissance"

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PAULA WOLF Staff Writer

Historic East Side Suites, took a dozen years to come to fruition, but now it is time for the east side of King street to shine. Read Lancaster Online’s article here

Patience is said to be a virtue – even more so when your specialty is converting old buildings to new uses.

Lancaster developer John Meeder’s latest initiative, Historic East Side Suites, took a dozen years to come to fruition, but now he’s just weeks away from seeing the finished product.

The 37,500-square-foot project encompasses five multistory brick buildings at 141-159 E. King St., which date as far back as 1859.

There are three components: seven storefronts covering almost 8,000 square feet; 4,000 square feet of commercial space on the second floor; and 17 upscale apartments, no two of which are alike.

Meeder, who partnered with executives from Wohlsen Construction, said the developers “are pretty proud of what we’re doing here. I think it’s going to help the downtown.”

Ed Gordon, executive vice president/chief financial officer of Wohlsen Construction, said the project illustrates Wohlsen’s ongoing involvement in city revitalization.

“We look forward to continuing to invest in downtown,” he said.

At one point in the renovations, workers uncovered an old “Herman Wohlsen & Sons” sign from the 1930s, Gordon said. And Meeder said Historic East Side Suites includes “one of the oldest intact storefronts in Lancaster.”

Three of the seven storefronts have tenants lined up; one, La Petite Patisserie bakery, already moved in. The other two will be a high-end hair salon and a cafe/market, said Meeder, of Meeder Development Corp.

The other commercial space is leased as well, he said, to the Apple Macintosh specialist Matrx Systems LLC and the marketing firm Moxie House.

Eleven of the 17 apartments are rented, too.

Most recently, 141-159 E. King St. housed businesses on the ground floor and 40 apartments upstairs.

Work on the buildings is expected to be completed in time for Historic East Sides Suites’ Oct. 7 grand opening.

Meeder said the project, which cost about $8.6 million, took so long because finding the right plan wasn’t easy.

Harold Hilles, of Hilles Architects, was brought on board to handle the design, with Wohlsen Construction as general contractor.

Above the first floor, the interior was almost entirely rebuilt, with most walls removed, Meeder said.

At the same time, features were preserved and restored as much as possible, including wooden trim, baseboard and three staircases.

One apartment is equipped with stunning original stained-glass windows.

The goal, Hilles said, was to combine the historic touches with contemporary colors and upscale amenities, such as ceramic-tile floors, granite countertops and undermounted sinks in the bathrooms, granite countertops in the kitchens and at least one walk-in closet in most units.

The apartments boast floating bamboo floors above a brand-new flooring system, Meeder said.

The 280-some windows also were replaced with ones “milled to the same profile” as their predecessors, he said.

But while they match the 19th-century heritage of the buildings, the new windows are insulated and meet energy-efficiency requirements, Hilles said.

In addition, double-brick walls between apartments enhance privacy, Meeder said.

Historic East Side Suites includes 14 two-bedroom apartments and three one-bedroom units, with 1 1/2-2 1/2 bathrooms. They range from about 900 to 2,000 square feet and rent for $880 to $2,150 a month.

Four of the apartments are two-story town houses.

More than half the units also feature a deck; some even come with two outdoor living spaces, Meeder said.

The project’s dual character is reflected in its traffic patterns, with apartment dwellers arriving through the rear and retail tenants/customers through the front, Meeder said.

For residents, there are 12 covered parking spaces at ground level; along with the commercial/retail tenants, they also have access to lot parking off Grant Street.

By revitalizing much of the block, “we wanted to create a new little district here,” Meeder said.

Among the numerous funding sources for the project were federal tax credits; loans from the Building Pennsylvania Program and Lancaster city; and a Recovery Zone Facility Bond.

Fulton Bank, which invested in the tax credits, is the first-mortgage lender.

Because of those credits, the property can’t be sold for seven years, Meeder said. After that, he said he plans to “condominiumize” the apartments and put them on the market.

The units have rented quickly, Meeder said, to downsizers and professionals attracted to the city lifestyle Historic East Side Suites is offering.

Contact Sunday News staff writer Paula Wolf at pwolf@lnpnews.com.

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