Harrisburg Apartments, Day Four: Executive House

My downtown/midtown apartment hunting continued today with a visit to Executive House.  Executive House is a 14-story high-rise located at the corner of Chestnut and Second streets, directly across from Harrisburg Hospital and Crowne Plaza.  More likely than not, you drive past it every time you head downtown via 83.

Executive House is a 14-story hi-rise located at the corner of Second & Chestnut in downtown Harrisburg.  It was built in 1966 by Berger & Company out of Philadelphia.  Initially, the first nine floors were office space and floors 10 through 14 were residential apartments.  When the Rachael Carlson building opened, Executive House was heavily renovated.  The first three floors remain in use as commercial space, but floors four through 14 are residential studio & one-bedroom apartments.  Up until 2000, the building was decked out in 1960s institutional-white brick cladding.  In 2000 the building received an exterior “facelift”, during which they mercifully painted over that.

Executive House is a well-hidden gem of downtown living.  Honestly, from the outside, it’s not much to look at.  I blame the brushed-aluminum railings on the balconies (brushed aluminum doesn’t age well).  You’ve probably driven past it thousands of times and never noticed, or tuned it out as just another anonymous downtown hi-rise.  The lobby and hallways — with their dark carpeting, dark-stained birch trim, and brass fixtures — make it clear that the common areas were last renovated in 1980-something.  They aren’t exactly ugly, just somewhat dated.  I suspect this makes a lot of people ignore the building, which makes it all that more of a secret.

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Harrisburg Apartments: Weekend #1

Wow – January is just FLYING by.  I’ve sold my house, sampled three Harrisburg apartment buildings, made six trips to Goodwill, and given away most of my furniture for free on Craigslist.  My home is about half-packed, but I still have a damaged Ikea computer desk to dismantle.  Today most of my 80s home computer collection went into proper storage.  And right this second, I’m taking a break.

I spent the day dismantling the proceeds from my home sale.  Those of you who saw my home know that it was never anything special, so it should be no surprise that we’re not exactly talking about a seven-figure sale here.  Today I dumped most of the proceeds from the sale into paying off old debt.  I have a tiny sliver of student loans left over from my degree, and a whole lot of my flight training loan left over.  I would love to put a little into the stock market, but even earning a 15% return isn’t that great when I’ve got student loans at 6.9%.

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Harrisburg Apartments, Day Three: Towne House

I’ve spent the past few days looking at Harrisburg apartments.  My criteria have been pretty straightforward from the beginning:

  • Anywhere downtown or midtown, within a half mile of Restaurant Row, Riverfront Park, and the train station
  • Mid-rise, hi-rise, or townhome
  • Less than $1,000 / month after parking, utilities, and rent

So far I’ve looked at The Grayco and Pennsylvania Place.  Today I’m heading to the opposite side of downtown to visit Towne House.

At 20 stories, Towne House is the second-tallest residential hirise in Harrisburg.  It was built in 1961 and was formerly a mixture of hotel rooms and apartments.  Today the hotel rooms have been converted into studios and the building is entirely residential.

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Harrisburg Apartments, Day Two: Pennsylvania Place

I just recently sold my home (without a realtor; did I mention that?) and have been searching downtown / midtown Harrisburg for a new place to live.  Since nothing for sale in the sub-$125k range appeals to me right now, I’ve decided to rent.  Yesterday I visited The Grayco and was majorly impressed at its transformation into a well-preserved vintage building.  Today I want to share what happened over at Pennsylvania Place.

According to their entry on SkyscraperPage, Pennsylvania Place was built in 1973.  At 25 stories, it is Harrisburg’s second-tallest skyscraper (333 Market is higher) and tallest residential hi-rise.  Formerly known as “City Towers”, the building suffered a major blow in 1994 when a water main burst and forced 600 residents out.  Oft-repeated local lore — whose accuracy I can not verify — adds that the building’s heat and power had failed, causing one or more stairwell(s) to ice over, trapping residents inside a freezing building.  In 1995 the building was sold to new owners, who dumped $10 million into renovations in time for its 1999 opening as Pennsylvania Place.  The building received more bad press in 2004 (explosion and electrical fire) and 2006 (drunken tenant dropped his girlfriend out the window).

Unfortunately, I have very little additional information on Pennsylvania Place.  They would not discuss rent or even show an apartment.  The leasing agent made it perfectly clear by way of body language and tone that she felt I was wasting her time.

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Harrisburg Apartments, Day One: The Grayco

In Monday’s post I mentioned that I have successfully sold my house at about a $9,000 profit, sans realtor.  And I also mentioned that legally, I currently don’t own a home.  With February 1st (my deadline for new occupancy) fast approaching and my moving target of 1/22 – 1/25 just around the corner, I am spending every waking moment this week scouring Harrisburg for decent apartments.

The first place I checked out has the most checkered past out of all of Harrisburg’s complexes.  If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Grayco Associates sometime prior to the early- to mid-2000s, you already know exactly what I’m talking about.  If not, well … put simply, the previous owners let an otherwise-beautiful 1930s-era art-deco midrise decay into a dump.

This week I took a tour of the place just to see if anything had actually, you know, fallen in on itself.  I invited my friend Jamie along for the ride.  “If it’s such a dump, why are you even going to see it?” she asked.  “Same reason you test drive a Hyundai,” I replied.  There was an awkward silence when we were both expecting a clever second part to my reasoning that never came.  The best I could manage was “Look, there’s Firehouse.  We’re here.”

It turns out that back in 2000, a new owner bought the property as a distressed building.  They’ve spent the past ten years fighting to reverse the building’s decay, and they’ve made amazing progress.  I never thought I’d say this, but aside from a few shortcomings, Grayco may actually be the best midrise in downtown Harrisburg.

I know.  Read it again; I said what you thought I said.  I’ll wait while you ponder that.

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