Michelle N. Lynch | Reading Eagle

Local businessman John P. Weidenhammer is putting his money where his mouth is.

Weidenhammer, president of Wyomissing-based Weidenhammer Systems Corp., purchased a four-story brick building at 503 Penn St. in March.The 12,000 Interior of 503 Penn St.square-foot building is undergoing a major renovation.

“For years, I have been encouraging others to invest in Reading,” Weidenhammer wrote in an email. “I thought it was time to put my money where I’ve encouraged others to invest.”

Kress Schwartz, director of strategic initiatives for Weidenhammer, led a group, including local historians, through the building last week. He showed the visitors the designs by Muhlenberg Greene Architects Ltd. for first-floor retail space and a possible restaurant and upper-level office space for Weidenhammer’s strategy, marketing and technology company.

No tenants have been named, but Schwartz said the company has turned down chain restaurants.

“We want a locally owned restaurant,” he said. “Our preference is for a brewpub.

“The idea of taking the building back to its original purpose as a pub and restaurant is exciting, Schwartz said, referring to a discovery made by Berks County historian George M. Meiser IX, who was in the group.

Meiser said the building was an inn and restaurant before becoming a chandelier factory and store.

“You would have stood in this retail space and looked up at the sky,” Schwartz said, indicating an enormous light shaft running through the center of the building.The shaft was once used to maximize daylight for workers in the factory, he said. Light was extremely important for the intricate work, hence the 7-foot high windows, extending the width of the building and affording a panoramic view.

The light shaft will remain in reduced dimensions in the upper-level office space, Schwartz said. A conference room will take advantage of the windows overlooking Penn Square. The company hopes to use it to lure potential developers to the city, he said.

“By this time next year, I figure there will be people sitting in here at their desks working,” he said.

Demolition of the interior so far has taken six workers about two months to accomplish, he said. Plans are to fully gut the building.

Any salvageable materials will be donated to the Artifacts Bank, an architectural salvage shop operated by the nonprofit Centre Park Historic District Inc.

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All of us at the Economic Partnership are incredibly excited about this project coming to fruition.