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From millennials to empty nesters, M&D is designing residential spaces to meet the changing needs of the people who live there.

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Millennials and downsizing empty nesters want to be close to amenities that drive the renaissance in downtown condo and townhouse living.  

The challenge is, with a mix of renovated historic buildings and new construction, to design these spaces to attract both groups and fit with their urban surroundings. 

“Everyone is different, but themes and trends have sustainability,” says Frank Dittenhafer, II, FAIA, LEED AP, President of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects.  

But one thing’s for sure: “These aren’t your father’s York City apartments,” Dittenhafer says of recent projects in the White Rose City’s downtown. 

Some things everybody needs

“Different folks don’t have as many different needs as you might think,” says Todd Grove, one of the M&D’s architects. “Everybody needs a kitchen, a living area, a bedroom, and closets.” 

Beyond that, though, single 20-somethings do have different priorities from couples leaving large, suburban homes where they lived for many years, often after the kids left home.  

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects’ professionals have to consider who will be living in spaces they design, and how to make those spaces work for those who will call them home. 

Downtown showcases fit York’s urban scene

The CODO 241 Project, on North George Street across from the York Revolution’s PeoplesBank Park, provides lofts for young professionals and places for couples coming from big suburban houses, through adaptive re-use of an historic building and new construction. 

“This building has everything from 500-square-foot studio apartments to three-story townhouses,” Grove says, noting how it was designed to appeal to both a young, single person on a tight budget who may not need a separate bedroom, and a downsizing couple who still need an office and a second bedroom for when the kids visit. 

The adaptive re-use of the historic York Auto Parts Building made use of exposed brick walls and original wood floors, while the corner of the project is new construction, welcoming this new breed of urban dweller. 

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“The units are all very open, filled with daylight and clean contemporary lines,” Dittenhafer says. “There’s variety, but it’s all high quality with a high degree of sophistication.” 

For example, CODO 241 has a rooftop deck overlooking downtown, including the stadium. 

CODO 28, also on North George Street but closer to Continental Square, is similarly designed to appeal to 21st century downtown lifestyles. 

“The new, three-story part of this building was designed with large windows facing George Street,” Grove says. 

Thinking outside the building

M&D also succeeded in re-using a building vacant for 20 years that had undergone several unsuccessful redevelopment attempts. 

“With the Woolworth Building, we kept commercial space on the street level and renovated the second floor for living space,” Grove says. “But this wasn’t enough to make it work, so we added two floors to the structure, increasing the height, to fit the context of the neighborhood with taller buildings.” 

Grove says the M&D team knew this would appeal to a different type of tenant, wanting larger places, so this building is mostly one- and two-bedroom units.  

“There is parking on site because empty nesters are more wedded to their cars,” Grove says. Amenities weren’t forgotten, as this building also has a rooftop deck. 

More to come

M&D has other downtown York housing ideas not yet built. 

“The Griffith-Smith Building on West Market Street is a 19th century building that’s too small for meaningful residential use,” Grove says. Like the Woolworth Building, the solution is to expand. 

“We would extend the structure back to the mid-block alley, and raise the residential floors, providing parking under the building in an open-air fashion.”  

The residential floors would thus be higher, bringing in more daylight. The proposed rooftop deck would provide wonderful views of church steeples and the courthouse dome. 

In the Red Rose City, too

Another intriguing project on the drawing board is the old Stehli Silk Mill in Manheim Township, with a corner in Lancaster City. 

“There are two large, three-story structures with over 200,000 square feet of space, unoccupied for years,” Dittenhafer says. “Others have looked at this and walked away, but we’ve developed a number of exciting, economical re-development approaches with exposed brick walls, huge windows, and some first floor non-residential uses, providing affordable housing for students and senior citizens, meeting community needs.” 

All keeping with M&D’s creed of considering the needs of people who will live in spaces they design — and designing the spaces to meet those needs.