Plenty of land in Lancaster already has been developed. Using air rights to build atop of existing buildings is intriguing. [editorial] | Our Opinion


THE Situation

“A 10-12 months-previous downtown Lancaster garage could draw a new type of progress most possible by no means viewed right before in the county — out of skinny air,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Tom Lisi reported Sunday in the “Lancaster Watchdog” column. “Through a community records ask for, LNP | LancasterOnline acquired a acquire agreement from the South Central Transit Authority to provide the ‘air rights’ for the house about the Purple Rose Transit Authority’s Queen Road Station Parking Garage at North Queen and East Chestnut streets. Lancaster-centered developer Eberly Myers LLC agreed to invest in the air rights for $790,000, with closing approval still required from the Federal Transit Administration and the Pennsylvania Section of Transportation. Closing on the offer is also contingent on the developer securing design funding and contractors to get started setting up, according to the agreement.” Eberly Myers secured an initial agreement to check out creating the air legal rights in June 2020.

At initially look, the idea appears to be odd.

Air rights?

How could air be a serious estate commodity?

But when land and housing are scanty, particularly in towns, building vertically is sensible. So we’re intrigued by the prospect of vertical enhancement coming to Lancaster.

Lancaster city’s skyline is pretty. Constructing upward only will incorporate to it.

Making atop of current structures can be a clever way of maximizing the use of land, the availability of which is ever shrinking.

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Lisi described Sunday, “Eberly Myers wants to construct a four- to 6-tale apartment creating on top of the parking garage that would include 70 to 90 studio and a single-bedroom residences, according to Benjamin Myers, a companion at the developer team.

“It could be the 1st-at any time housing enhancement in Lancaster County designed on assets acquired via air legal rights — generally the ‘land’ higher than an current developing.”

As Lisi noted, “Air rights describe a basic factor of house legal rights in the United States, which have their roots in English common law, according to Matt Crème, a Lancaster-dependent land-use legal professional and solicitor for numerous municipalities in the county.”

That principle: “The possession of a residence extends all the way down to the main of the earth and up to the heavens,” Crème explained. “And you can — the term is ‘sever’ — the mineral rights for instance, or the air legal rights and offer people individually.”

Down “to the core of the earth and up to the heavens” — how pretty poetic.

A offer was in position in the 2010s for a developer to establish luxury condominiums higher than the Queen Avenue Station Parking Garage, but the program evaporated in the wake of the Good Recession.

Then, in 2017, the Lancaster-primarily based nonprofit developer HDC MidAtlantic “had an solution arrangement to build the air legal rights for an reasonably priced housing enhancement,” Lisi pointed out. “But the reasonably priced housing builder was unable to clear up a $3 million funding gap to move ahead on the undertaking, in accordance to Dana Hanchin, HDC’s president and CEO.”

That is a authentic disgrace. Lancaster town and county needed, and even now require, more inexpensive housing models.

When this newest challenge is not going to create $500,000 condos like the 1 that fizzled in the 2010s, Myers told Lisi that the target would be to lease the studio and a person-bedroom models at about $1,100 to $1,600 for each month.

Christopher Delfs, director of Lancaster city’s Division of Community Scheduling and Financial Enhancement, explained one crucial information source estimates that the normal lease in the city in 2021 was $845 for studio flats and $1,141 for just one-bedroom apartments. (The common for two-bed room flats: $1,277.)

So these rental units would charge additional than the recent metropolis averages. We only can hope the rental selling prices really don’t enhance between now and when the project is finished.

Which isn’t a certainty, but as Greg Downing, govt director of the South Central Transit Authority — which operates both the Purple Rose Transit Authority and the Berks Location Regional Transit Authority — told Lisi, the authority has “never been this close” to a last deal.

Downing mentioned the $790,000 cost is centered on land appraisals of the air legal rights.

Federal and condition laws tied to the parking garage have to have that air rights be marketed at “fair marketplace value,” Downing explained.

If the deal is accredited, the South Central Transit Authority will use the income for Purple Rose Transit Authority operations — which would be a boon to the procedure.

Myers claimed constructing on an now-present framework removes some of the danger for a developer. “I know the threats of vertical developing beginning at 85 ft versus digging in the ground and finding drinking water or rock,” which can create surprise charges, Myers informed Lisi. (The metal-and-concrete parking garage was built to be capable of managing added floors.)

An additional reward for the developer: the possibility to offer parking with no possessing to expend revenue to establish it at a normal price of extra than $20,000 per parking room.

Concentrating housing near transportation hubs is great organizing. And it could be helpful for the ecosystem, besides that the motorists who use the Queen Street Station Parking Garage are not making use of it for its original objective, which was to park their personalized autos and then use public transportation.

The 395-space garage is fully occupied, Downing said, and has a waiting list. County staff members get a price cut on the $65 regular monthly price — Downing, inexplicably, declined to disclose the price cut amount of money. (Corporations can get group costs at $55 a thirty day period with a yearlong deal, in accordance to the Crimson Rose Transit Authority site.)

“The federal transit funds that paid for the $20.2 million parking garage have been meant for ‘multimodal’ transportation,” Lisi defined, “meaning the expectation was that people today who parked at the garage would then hop on a bus” to the Amtrak station, which is a mile away and has confined parking.

But only a handful of garage users in 2022 just take the bus to get to the Amtrak station, Downing said.

This is disappointing.

And we’re not certain that the condition is going to boost when apartment renters are parking in the garage.

But vertical progress using air legal rights is an intriguing probability for Lancaster. We hope it pays dividends not just for developers, but for the group.



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