Midtown’s Furlow Building Gets Un-Furloughed

The Furlow Building - FrontAt some point or another, we’ve all strolled past this building on our way to Midtown Scholar or points downtown.  At 1222 North Third St, the Furlow building sits almost directly across from the Broad Street Market, smack dab in the heart of midtown Harrisburg’s renaissance.  For decades it has sat empty and neglected, with a ground-level mural doing little to hide the decay of this once-stately building.  But starting last week, signs of life have sprung up in and around the joint.  Another major midtown renaissance project is well underway.

The Furlow was designed in 1908 by Charles Howard Lloyd, a renowned Harrisburg architect.  It was originally home to Commercial Bank, and later became the site of the first Pennsylvania-owned liquor store.  Details on subsequent uses vary, but the building shuttered for good in the early 1980s.  Its final purpose was as a luxury apartment building.

Details are a little hard to pin down, but it appears that plans for the building call for ground-level boutique retail with about two dozen one-bedroom apartments above.  This is where details become sketchy.  Some sources seem to suggest that the building will cater to low-income residents, while others seem to suggest that the building will cater to young professionals.  The latter obviously makes more sense for midtown.  If you provide young professionals with an attractive place to live in what has become THE place to live in the city, they’ll move in and bring their disposable income with them.  That’s great news for the merchants and investors who have been holding out along Third St these last few years.  The small surge of residents that this building intends to draw could be the catalyst that helps neighboring businesses evolve from “sustainable” to “profitable”.

To put that another way, recall that ten years ago, many people still considered midtown to be a blighted part of the city.  Today, thanks to heroic efforts among the locals, midtown has emerged as the arts & culture district of Harrisburg.  The place where all the cool kids want to live.  And while there are plenty of townhomes and lowrise rentals to be had, some of us just prefer high-density living.  At this moment, that’s simply not available in midtown at any price.

The Furlow building in Harrisburg, from the rearThe building’s redevelopment is being handled by Greenworks.  I’ve found that exactly half of the city loathes Greenworks, while the other half supports them fanatically.  I know nothing about the company or its goings-on, so feel free to school me in the comments below.

As part of the renovations, Greenworks will be demolishing the single-story structure in the rear of the building.  This was clearly not part of the original building, and I’m happy to see this cinder-block monstrosity disappear.  In its place will be off-street parking and some sort of elevator / storage building.  Zoning hearings are coming up for this on September 7 and 12.  I will definitely be there.

If the Furlow building does indeed target young professionals, this will be a boon for midtown’s stability.  The 1500 Project is selling high-end condos just a few blocks east, and Lofts at 909 handle furnished rentals to the south.  Neither of these really fit the bill for those of us who, for a variety of good reasons, would rather rent long-term.  Given Harrisburg’s near-total lack of upmarket rentals, high-end apartments in the Furlow would see unprecedented demand.

Unless Executive House plans to go upmarket with their three new floors of one- and two-bedroom apartments, of course.  But that’s another posting.