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

Deborah K. Vick


THE Problem

“A 10-year-old downtown Lancaster garage could attract a new form of advancement most possible under no circumstances found right before in the county — out of slender air,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Tom Lisi described Sunday in the “Lancaster Watchdog” column. “Through a community information request, LNP | LancasterOnline attained a purchase arrangement from the South Central Transit Authority to offer the ‘air rights’ for the house in excess of the Pink Rose Transit Authority’s Queen Street Station Parking Garage at North Queen and East Chestnut streets. Lancaster-dependent developer Eberly Myers LLC agreed to order the air legal rights for $790,000, with remaining approval even now desired from the Federal Transit Administration and the Pennsylvania Section of Transportation. Closing on the offer is also contingent on the developer securing construction financing and contractors to start out setting up, according to the settlement.” Eberly Myers secured an first arrangement to discover producing the air rights in June 2020.

At initial glance, the idea would seem bizarre.

Air rights?

How could air be a true estate commodity?

But when land and housing are scanty, in particular in cities, constructing vertically is practical. So we’re intrigued by the prospect of vertical enhancement coming to Lancaster.

Lancaster city’s skyline is wonderful. Making upward only will include to it.

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

As LNP | LancasterOnline’s Lisi documented Sunday, “Eberly Myers desires to establish a four- to 6-tale apartment constructing on major of the parking garage that would include things like 70 to 90 studio and a person-bed room flats, according to Benjamin Myers, a husband or wife at the developer group.

“It could be the initial-at any time housing growth in Lancaster County created on home obtained by means of air rights — essentially the ‘land’ previously mentioned an current developing.”

As Lisi described, “Air rights describe a essential part of house rights in the United States, which have their roots in English common law, in accordance to Matt Crème, a Lancaster-primarily based land-use legal professional and solicitor for different municipalities in the county.”

That basic principle: “The ownership of a assets extends all the way down to the core of the earth and up to the heavens,” Crème explained. “And you can — the term is ‘sever’ — the mineral legal rights for illustration, or the air rights and market those independently.”

Down “to the main of the earth and up to the heavens” — how really poetic.

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

Then, in 2017, the Lancaster-dependent nonprofit developer HDC MidAtlantic “had an solution agreement to produce the air rights for an affordable housing advancement,” Lisi observed. “But the cost-effective housing builder was not able to solve a $3 million funding hole to shift forward on the venture, in accordance to Dana Hanchin, HDC’s president and CEO.”

That is a true shame. Lancaster metropolis and county needed, and nevertheless require, more affordable housing models.

While this newest project isn’t likely to develop $500,000 condos like the one that fizzled in the 2010s, Myers told Lisi that the target would be to lease the studio and one particular-bedroom units at about $1,100 to $1,600 for every month.

Christopher Delfs, director of Lancaster city’s Office of Group Setting up and Financial Improvement, stated a person critical knowledge resource estimates that the normal rent in the town in 2021 was $845 for studio apartments and $1,141 for one-bedroom residences. (The average for two-bed room apartments: $1,277.)

So these rental units would value extra than the present-day city averages. We only can hope the rental costs don’t enhance among now and when the job is finished.

Which isn’t a certainty, but as Greg Downing, executive director of the South Central Transit Authority — which operates both the Pink Rose Transit Authority and the Berks Area Regional Transit Authority — explained to Lisi, the authority has “never been this close” to a last offer.

Downing stated the $790,000 rate is based on land appraisals of the air rights.

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

If the deal is accredited, the South Central Transit Authority will use the dollars for Red Rose Transit Authority functions — which would be a boon to the program.

Myers explained building on an currently-existing structure eliminates some of the hazard for a developer. “I know the risks of vertical making commencing at 85 feet compared to digging in the floor and acquiring drinking water or rock,” which can develop surprise expenditures, Myers informed Lisi. (The metal-and-concrete parking garage was developed to be able of dealing with further flooring.)

An additional bonus for the developer: the chance to present parking with out having to commit cash to develop it at a usual cost of far more than $20,000 per parking area.

Concentrating housing in close proximity to transportation hubs is superior setting up. And it could be valuable for the environment, apart from that the motorists who use the Queen Road Station Parking Garage are not working with it for its unique objective, which was to park their private cars and then use general public transportation.

The 395-place garage is entirely occupied, Downing reported, and has a waiting around listing. County staff members get a discount on the $65 regular fee — Downing, inexplicably, declined to disclose the discounted quantity. (Firms can get team premiums at $55 a thirty day period with a yearlong agreement, according to the Crimson Rose Transit Authority web page.)

“The federal transit money that paid out for the $20.2 million parking garage have been intended for ‘multimodal’ transportation,” Lisi described, “meaning the expectation was that persons who parked at the garage would then hop on a bus” to the Amtrak station, which is a mile absent and has limited parking.

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

This is disappointing.

And we’re not certain that the circumstance is going to improve when condominium renters are parking in the garage.

But vertical growth employing air legal rights is an intriguing likelihood for Lancaster. We hope it pays dividends not just for developers, but for the group.



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