126 E. King St. (photo)

126 E. King St.

The three story building at 26 E. King St. in downtown Lancaster has been a furniture store, a bank, and a drug store.

But in recent years, it has been empty and it has been neglected.

And, in the near future, it could be replaced.

On Thursday, members of the Lancaster city Historical Commission voted to recommend approval of plans to demolish the existing building and construct a new three story building in its place.

City Council members are expected to vote on the plans at their meeting Tuesday, at 7:30 p.m., in Southern Market Center, 100 S. Queen St.

Those plans call for a street-level restaurant in the new building. A use for the upper two floors hasn’t been determined, said Ben Frank, of building owner Amalfi Properties.

Yet, private meeting space is being considered for those floors, said his father and partner, Joe Frank.

With Joe’s wife, Shelvy Frank, the family bought the building in November for $302,000, newspapers records show.

The building is sandwiched between those that hold Annie Bailey’s Irish pub and the Tellus 360 shops, pub and performance space.

The Franks want to be the next entrepreneurs to join the redevelopment of the block.

“I love this town and I think it’s headed in such a good direction,” said Ben Frank, who is leading the effort.

Architect Bruce Evans, representing the Franks before the Historical Commission, said their initial intent was to preserve the facade of the existing building and construct a new structure behind it.

Doing so, they found would cost $357,305, Evans said. He said it was economically unfeasible.

The building itself was too far gone to save, said Evans, usually a Historical Commission Board member.

Years of neglect and water damage had led to buckled floors, bowed brick walls and collapsed ceilings.

Parts of walls and floors had also been removed during successive renovations as uses of the building changed over the years. Unfinished rehabilitation efforts further destabilized the structure, said Evans.

“There has been a hodgepodge of systems that have been put in place to keep it standing up,” he said.

The building has been unoccupied since Rite Aid moved from the site in November 1996. Rite Aid had been in that location since 1964, newspaper records show.

At the start of that century, the building housed the Union Trust Company bank and offices of the Lancaster Board of Trade.

In between, a shoe store and other businesses occupied the building. And, the granite arch and pillars that had been the entrance to the bank were removed as the facade was updated, reported Suzanne Stallings, the city historic preservation specialist.

 Also removed were the original  decorative Victorian window crowns on the upper levels, she said.

The planned building will have a glass storefront with upper level brick, Evans said. There will be a railing on top of the facade because there are plans for a roof deck, he said.

Those plans are still being revised, and no cost estimate for the project was discussed during the meeting.

Joe Frank, of Lancaster Township, said the structure should total about 35,000-square-feet.

According to his linked-in profiles, Joe Frank is the former chief executive officer of The Heart Group, the Lancaster-based cardiology practice. He is now a healthcare consultant. Shelvy Frank is the former chief operating officer of The Heart Group. She is now administrator of Lancaster Urology. Ben Frank is a real estate agent.

The project must still undergo review by the city Planning Commission in March, said Paula Jackson, the city’s chief planner.

Ben Frank, said the project must also be reviewed by the city’s Zoning Hearing Board.

If all approvals are secured this spring, construction could be completed in time for a December opening, Joe Frank said.

Bernard Harris is a Lancaster Newspapers staff writer who covers transportation issues and Lancaster City Hall. He also blogs about bicycling at Road Apples and Potholes. He can be reached at bharris@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6022. You can also follow@BHarris_LNP on Twitter.

Suggestions, corrections, clarifications, added information welcome