The Baer Building in Reading occupies the lot at the northeast corner of Church and Court Streets.
The building was originally built as a 3 story office building facing Washington Street in 1870 and the high-rise was an addition added by George Baer in 1900. An old advertisement from 1909 for leasing space in the building touts it as the first office building in the city to have bathrooms with indoor plumbing.
The building was the first all commercial building purchased by Alan Shuman of the Shuman Development Group in 1997.
When the building was purchased in 1997 it was owned by Wes Pace who inherited it from his father who had owned it for several decades. The building was in terrible shape and about 19% occupied with the only significant tenant being the fairly new company “Bills Khakis.”
The Shuman Development Group installed new windows, new boiler, new roof, and completely restored much of the interior.
The building was sold in 2004 to Pete Brunee of Philadelphia when Exide Battery, the biggest tenant at 645 Penn Street, filed for bankruptcy and cancelled their huge lease with the Shuman Development Group.
The new owner immediately started modifying the Baer Building by tearing out part of the original steam heating system, some interior walls, many of the original bathrooms, and painted over much of the gold restored gilt work.
The building went from 97% full when purchased by the Shuman Development Group in 2004 for $875,000 to about 5% occupied in a few years. Pete Brunee died around 2015 and the building was foreclosed upon by Wells Fargo bank who then sold it for $325,000 to some investors from the Philadelphia/New Jersey area.
The investors are real estate speculators who purchase property and hope someone will pay them more while they let the property rot. Part of the roof blew off four years ago. The owner shut off the heat and now all the plaster is cracking and all the paint peeling. There are pigeons living on the upper floors since there are some windows that have been broken out for years.
Numerous codes complaints have been filed to try to get the city to do something. The city has set up five inspections but the owner never shows up so the owner just gets a $150 fine and no pressure to make things right. The building will be lost if some action does not get taken fairly soon.