The vacant Rendezvous Steak Shop property on West King Street is being eyed as part of the site for a proposed $22 million senior-living apartment building.

Landis Quality Living, part of Landis Communities, wants to develop a 7-story building there with 82 apartments that would provide independent living for about 115 people age 55 and older.

Groundbreaking on the project, to be named Landis Place on King, is tentatively set for next summer. Occupancy would follow in summer 2022.

The striking mid-rise project would add a flourish to the western gateway into downtown.

“Our vision is that Landis Place on King be an integral part of the West King Street neighborhood and compliment the residents and businesses that already exist and make the neighborhood so special,” said Evon Bergey, vice president of community initiatives at Landis Communities.

Though Landis Quality Living is a nonprofit and the new project would qualify for tax-exempt status, Landis Quality Living would pay property taxes on the development nonetheless, said Beth Trout, Landis Communities vice president for advancement and communications.

Landis Place on King is the third major, pending residential development in or near downtown.

It joins Zamagias Properties’ plan for 45 apartments in the first block of West King Street and Willow Valley Living’s plan for 150 apartments in the first block of South Queen Street, also for people age 55 and up. Both were announced a year ago.

To make way for Landis Place on King, Landis Quality Living wants to demolish the former Rendezvous location at 239 W. King St., which was built in the early 1970s. It also wants to raze 245 W. King St., where House of Tacos operates, parts of which date to 1915, though the building has been altered substantially over the years.

Its request for the city's permission to raze the buildings and build anew was heard Monday evening by the city Historical Commission, which advises City Council on such matters.

The commission recommended that council allow each building to come down by 6-1 votes. It recommended approval of the new building by a 5-2 vote, after a discussion of the exterior's building materials and degree of color contrast. Council will take up the matters at its Aug. 11 meeting.

Second city project

Landis Place on King would be the second city project for Landis Communities, best known as the owner and operator of Landis Homes continuing care retirement community on East Oregon Road in Manheim Township.

The first venture was Steeple View Lofts at 118 N. Water St., a little more than one block north of the West King Street project.

That initial project also was done through Landis Quality Living, which manages the 36-apartment property that provides independent living for 42 seniors. Steeple View Lofts – a former warehouse redeveloped and owned by Zamagias -- opened in 2013.

Steeple View Lofts is fully leased, with a waiting list of up to two years for certain types of units.

That demand among seniors for downtown Lancaster living has had Landis Quality Living searching for a another suitable site for “quite a while,” said Trout.

Prime location

In the 200 block of West King Street, Landis Quality Living believes it has found a prime location. The Bravo Supermarket is next door. Within two blocks are downtown’s Lancaster Central Market, restaurants, stores and entertainment options.

Landis Place on King would have a mix of one-bedroom apartments, two-bedroom apartments and six shared-living efficiencies, project architects RLPS said in a submission to the commission prior to Monday’s meeting.

“There will also be large windows and/or balcony doors in all apartments to enhance the living experience for all residents,” RLPS said.

Rents would begin at about $800 per month for the efficiencies, which Landis Quality Living described as below the market rate for such units.

Apartments would range from 700 square feet for one-bedroom units to 1,200 square feet for two-bedroom units with a den.

Rents for those one- and two-bedroom units would be middle-market, said Trout, although the amounts have yet to be determined.

The building also would offer 2,500 square feet of commercial space, seen as a location for a café or bistro, and a social gathering space above the commercial space for the building’s residents.

(Multi-family housing is permitted by right in the city’s central business district, where the property sits. Commercial uses are allowed in the same building as long as they’re on the street-level floor, said Douglas Smith, the city’s chief planner.)

In addition, Landis Place on King would have first floor parking for 40 cars, accessible from West Grant Street, and a green roof. Another feature would be a so-called “care navigator,” who would assist residents who need help finding someone to help with housekeeping, cooking meals and other tasks.

From cheesesteaks to housing

If all approvals are secured and the proposal become a reality, Landis Place on King would take the location long filled by a Lancaster institution, the Rendezvous.

The sandwich shop, renowned for its cheesesteaks, closed Dec. 31 after operating in that block – initially across the street – for 68 years.

News of the shutdown triggered hundreds of online posts by former and current customers of fond memories. But Roger Gaspari, brother of the late founder Romolo Gaspari, decided he was too old to continue the business at age 89.

When Landis Communities learned of the retirement, it approached the property owners about a possible sale. Landis Communities has both tracts, totaling roughly half an acre, under a sales agreement.

In addition to RLPS, also assisting in the 114,000-square-foot project are land planners RGS Associates and general contractor High Construction.

Though Landis Place on King is the third major residential project in or near downtown to be proposed in the past year, it might not necessarily be the third of them to open.

Zamagias President David Martens told LNP | LancasterOnline in early July that he does not have a construction timetable set as yet. Willow Valley Living CEO John Swanson told LNP | LancasterOnline last week that he too does not have a construction timetable set as yet.