Former G.E. Richards building on West Walnut Street

A 2013 file photo of the former G.E. Richards building, at 502-506 W. Walnut St.

Annville developer Kenneth Wenger has paid back taxes, ensured the grounds of the former G.E. Richards building are clean and the grass cut.

He has resolved nearly all the issues that led city inspectors to declare the 502-506 W. Walnut St. property blighted.

But that didn’t stop city Redevelopment Authority board members on Tuesday from voting to begin the process of taking the property by eminent domain.

In April, the board gave Wenger until Sept. 30 to address blighted conditions. The taking could occur in as little as 90 days unless Wenger takes action.

Earlier this year, Wenger submitted a rehabilitation plan to the city to remediate the blight. That followed the imposition of $250,000 in fines last year for repeatedly failing to take action.

Remaining to be completed is the installation of a fire alarm system, Wenger told Redevelopment Authority board members Tuesday. It was to have been installed by July.

Wenger’s contractor was concerned about false alarms during building renovation. Discussions have been ongoing with the city fire marshal to approve plans for the system.

An agreement was reached last week and alarm system plans should be submitted within the next few weeks, Wenger said.

“All the other work that was part of the plan was done by the end of May,” said Randy Patterson, the city’s Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization director.

Wenger had also addressed the exterior conditions of the property, Patterson said. Previously, neighbors had complained about litter, high weeds in summer and unshoveled snow and ice in winter.

Jean Sharf, a North Mary Street resident, acknowledged the grounds had been cleaned up, but still put no faith in Wenger.

“I’ve heard from Mr. Wenger so many times over so many years ... really his credibility is below zero, if that is possible,” Sharf said.

Wenger bought the property at the southwest corner of West Walnut and North Mary streets in 2008 for $275,000.

The building was last home to the G.E. Richards photocopier business. It was built 124 years ago as the Walnut Street School.

Wenger’s BSW Holdings company originally planned offices in the building. With the economic downturn, he then planned to divide the building into eight “high-end” apartments.

On Tuesday, Wenger said he still plans to renovate the building into apartments. Construction could start in six months. He declined to estimate how long the work could take.



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.