The Press Building and Drogaris Companies Honored by Lancaster Historic Preservation Trust

December 22, 2017
Aaron S. Marines

The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County recently honored its 2017 recipients of the C. Emlen Urban Awards.  I am proud to say that The Press Building in Lancaster City won an award for adaptive reuse.  Congratulations to The Drogaris Companies, the developer of the building, and to Tippetts/Weaver, the project architects, as well as to all of the other professionals and builders involved with the project. We have been involved in the project for nearly all of its history, and I have had a courtside seat for most of it.

The Press Building is one of my favorite kinds of projects. I love when a historic or rundown property is rescued. The building was built in the early 1900s as a cigar factory and warehouse.  From 1922 until 1992, the Lancaster Press Company used the building for printing.  The building sat vacant from 1992 until it was adapted for its current use.  Today, the building has been refurbished to house 48 residential condominium units.  In addition, the ground floor of the building is set to house a fine dining restaurant and bar. 

Another reason that I love this kind of project because it involves lots of people and many different steps. Drogaris needed to work with the City to purchase the building, to get approval for the new use and to plan for all the building and easement requirements that a residential building faces.  There have been many steps in financing, from receiving State and local grants to working with banks on construction financing.

We needed to create a condominium form of ownership that meets a number of regulatory and lender requirements, while at the same time making sense for the future residents of The Press Building.  A tricky part of the condominium was how to account for a mixed use facility.  The restaurant owner has different needs and expectations that the residential unit owners.  Rather than applying a cookie cutter approach, we really needed to actually walk around in the building during renovations to understand how different features would be used.  This included climbing up to the roof to see where the roof deck would be placed, and how close it would be to the large industrial-sized skylights that were salvaged.

Ultimately, each of the units turned out to be a remarkable urban space. Most have huge windows that preserve the original setup of the building.  There are walls of exposed brick and concrete columns that give each unit a unique look, while preserving the industrial feel of the building.  Michelangelo is credited with saying that every block of stone has a statue inside of it, and the sculptor merely needs to discover it. I feel this way about The Press Building.  It’s more than a redevelopment and construction project, it’s a demonstration of how to discover art within a building.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including BusinessCommercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.