This is it. A solid week of apartment hunting in midtown / downtown Harrisburg wraps up as of right now. My last stop on the tour is Old City Hall, located across Walnut Street from the Capitol building. The building was built in 1910 as a technical school, and remodeled for use as Harrisburg’s City Hall in the late 1920s. In the late 1970s, during Harrisburg’s earliest attempts to revitalize downtown, the building was renovated into the apartments as you see them today.
Old City Hall is unique in that it is one of only two Harrisburg apartment buildings to be dominated by split-level loft apartments (the other being Simon Cameron School on Green). Schoolhouse Apartments in Mechanicsburg has the same overall feel, but only has a handful of split-level units. This is currently a niche market that Harrisburg desperately needs more of. I’ll take a hardwood floor, exposed brickwork and structure, and an otherwise well-hidden exterior over any of the apartments I’ve looked at so far. The Grayco may be the current frontrunner in class and character, but nothing screams living history like a 30′ ceiling 12-foot windows.
I can not remember the leasing agent’s name, but she was happy to give me a tour of the available apartments. I looked at three one-bedroom units that fell within my price range, all of which had an elevated bedroom and bathroom.
Old City Hall’s lobby is, without qualification, the best out of everything I’ve looked at so far. I would move into it if I could. It’s easily the best part of the building. And it’s a small part of the ambiance that is the reason for Old City Hall’s prices. The building is definitely premium-priced. And without any similar competition, it’s easy to see why. The first midtown or downtown developer to axe up an old run-down warehouse and carve it into split-level lofts will make an effing fortune overnight on rent.
The apartments are, of course, unique. They’re starting to look a little dated, but that’s hard to notice when you look up and see your bedroom … then keep looking up and see the ceiling 25 or 30 feet above you.
One-bedroom rent at Old City Hall starts just shy of $900 / month, which includes water, sewer, and trash. Tenants pay electric. By itself this is a downer, but considering that each apartment has an electric heat pump with additional electric baseboards, heating two stories’ worth of ceiling space will only compound the issue. In other words, Old City Hall ain’t cheap.
But you already knew that.
The smallest apartment I viewed was also the best. It would comfortably hold a sectional and a wall-mounted TV, and the bedroom looked like you could just barely squeeze a king size mattress inside. Since the pass-through kitchen had a breakfast bar on the living room side, the only walls you really have are exterior. Coupled with the massive windows flooding the room with sunlight and a second-story view, this has the effect of making the apartment feel massive.
Uncovered parking is available on-site for $80 / month, which is starting to get awfully close to just paying to park in a city garage.
I ran the numbers and figured it would cost me about $1040 / month (plus whatever heating adds to my electric bill) to live there. This is slightly over my maximum upper limit of $1000 / month.
Old City Hall is unconditionally a nice place. And until Harrisburg gets some real competition in loft living, it will remain an expensive place. Although I’m sure it’s worth the cost, Old City Hall has become the only building that I am ruling out right off the bat based on cost.
Tomorrow I get to make my decision and sign a lease. I’m moving this weekend and I must unconditionally have everything out by the first. My schedule is tight, but honestly … this is fun.