Downtown Harrisburg is looking up. A year ago, Second Street faced a crime wave with murders and shootings that scared away many customers. Now, a transformation is happening before resident's eyes.
A buzz saw cutting molding echoed in the soon-to-be Federal Taphouse bar and restaurant. Restaurant Row's latest overhaul consists of a sophisticated state-of-the-art space that hopes to attract new customers and welcome the frightened ones back.
Formerly, under the name 'Dragonfly' the 'Fed' has gone from a trouble-plagued hip-hop nightclub to a posh hangout with promise. In February, two stabbings within weeks were linked to Dragonfly and created an outcry of safety concerns along Second Street.
Since then bar owners claim it was a 'down' or 'slow' season this summer. Former downtown regular Andrea Smallacombe admitted she stayed away after the crime spree.
"The security stuff was a concern," she said. "So, I didn't really come out a lot."
Federal Taphouse owner Judd Goodman took charge to shut down Dragonfly and open a butterfly business with an attractive atmosphere.
"[I'm] creating an atmosphere that's gonna be great for the 28 year-old as well as the family in the 50's, 60's all the way up," said Goodman. "I think it's something that's going to be different."
Goodman said unless you travel to Boston you won't find a charcoal-fired oven anywhere close. Steven Starr, a popular and successful Philadelphia restaurant owner, will lend a top chef to man Goodman's world-class kitchen.
Alongside the unique charcoal-fired oven will be a wood-fired oven for authentic Italian pizza. To quench your thirst, a bevy of microbrew craft ales have been selected to be 'on-tap' (hence the name Taphouse).
Upstairs houses the FED LIVE music hall, which allows live bands to rock out to an advanced digital sound stage. The space will also be rented for parties and events.
Obviously, Goodman is trying to attract a demographic with a mature palette. But, even the young professionals need to stay plugged-in. The Fed will offer a cell phone charging station behind the bar.
The Federal Taphouse is not alone. Additions of 'Buddha Buddha', a martini lounge at South Street and Second Street, and national sandwich chain 'Jimmie John's', have prompted a transformation. In July, the 'Second & State' building opened revamping the look of downtown.
Thursday, Little Amps Coffee House announced that they soon plan to move their bean-brewing operation into a new location at Second and State Streets.
As Goodman sees it, planted flowers are pollinating into a great garden.
"I think all of downtown Harrisburg is making some changes for the better," he said. "I think that's going to be a great draw."
There is no certainly that crime will never crouch into Restaurant Row again. But, the crowd is transforming from rowdy to refined pretty quickly. For business owners and customers alike, change is good.
"It's neat to see all the new places coming in. So, I'm looking forward to it," said Smallacombe.
The Federal Taphouse is scheduled to open December 26.