In a quiet moment, Frank Dittenhafer will peer out his office window at a thriving swath of York City:
Modern apartment buildings rise with clean lines over the clear-glass storefronts at street level; residents meet in lush outdoor spaces and stroll down the sidewalk toward Continental Square; children laugh and play, and the Codorus burbles by.
It’s York’s Northwest Triangle, there in the distance, though today it bears little resemblance to that picture in the architect’s mind.
Instead, right now it’s four acres of empty lots abutting old buildings. It’s challenging angles and two aging sets of railroad tracks, dug firmly into land that for years has remain barren. For now.
But maybe not for long.
A piece of York’s renaissance
Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects, along with partner the Time Group, recently embarked on what will be a six-month review and evaluation of the Northwest Triangle, with an eye toward new construction on the land, which takes its name from a bend in the Codorus Creek it borders.
It’s a project near to Frank’s heart, one he’s hoped for more than 10 years would at last materialize, just down the street.
“It’s perhaps the only open site of its kind, with four acres right near downtown York,” he explained. “We’ve been very active from the beginning in the downtown renaissance – it’s something we’re passionate about – and this is another piece of that project.”
If things go according to plan and more approvals come, Frank envisions a multi-phase project on the Triangle, with the first bringing three or four buildings that will include 150-plus apartments and about 14,000 square feet for retail use. He envisions contemporary, urban spaces with loft-style apartments and plenty of glass providing City and waterfront views and outdoor seating. The York County Heritage Rail Trail will amble through.
“The whole thing will have a sense of destination to it,” he said. “A strong sense of place.”
A city where things are set to happen
The developer on the project sees the same thing. Dominic Wiker, development director for the Time Group, of Baltimore, explained that the construction will evoke a particular feel unique to York.
“We’re looking right now at a well-designed building with units that reflect a certain lifestyle,” he said, “something where people can take advantage of the great amenities and features in the city around them.”
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It’s a city, Dominic said, where he feels more exciting things are set to happen.
“We were impressed by the amount of activity we saw,” he said. “It felt like an opportunity for us to be part of a wave of interest and revitalization sweeping through York.”
Frank and Dominic have met in recent days with numerous interested local entities, including the York City Public Works Department, York’s Redevelopment Authority and Downtown Inc. Such meetings will continue over the coming months in hopes of both spurring the project forward and getting as much input as possible before a potential final approval of the design plans.
If all goes well, locals could see construction at the site by late next year, and a completed project by 2018.
“First, though, we’re going to be picking the brains of a lot of people in York to get it just right,” Dominic said.
Shaping what’s to come
For Frank, the Northwest Triangle project is a way to continue Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects’ rich legacy of work in York. It’s a way to contribute — again – to a city being shaped through changing times.
That slow molding, that melding of history and new happenings takes place every day across the city, along its bustling streets and inside offices where locals look to make life a little better in York. In one such space one recent morning Frank Dittenhafer spoke of his own plan. It hasn't been a quick journey, he admitted. But we’re getting there, and York is worth the wait.
“I’m excited because now it’s finally starting to be within sight,” he said, looking once more toward all that might be.