Lancaster City seems bound and determined to repeat history. Certainly, those who run things around here have not learned from it. Three and a half decades after the Brunswick Mall debacle, I watch my beloved hometown rush headlong towards the finish line on the Lancaster County Convention Center, a bloated, hopelessly optimistic, and inherently doomed "city revitalization" project which has been the epicenter of controversy around these parts for nigh on a decade now.
You would think with such a glaring reminder of misguided "renovation" and poorly spent funds still marring the city, developers would be much more cautious when a similar project came about. Sadly, you would be wrong.
I won't go into the history of the debate over the proposed Lancaster County Convention Center - you can read a nice summary of that history here and here (scroll down to the comment by ArtieSee near the bottom of the page), or do some Googling. I won't waste time talking about the fact that building a convention center on the edge of a rundown and, at times, extremely unsafe part of town with inconvenient parking at best will do no favors towards encouraging repeat business. I won't even go into the fact that, at this point, a project that was sold to the city at a $74 million budget as an "economic boon" is now looking to clock in at just under $200 million (all but $11 million of which is taxpayer funded), and is expected by some estimates to lose $1 million a year.
No, I will instead limit my commentary to this: the thing is frickin' hideous! Once again, Lancaster is trying to "revitalize" via tons and tons of concrete. This time, though, instead of spreading it out, they're piling it high! This will be one of the tallest buildings in the city when it's finished later this year. And rather than completely demolish vintage architecture (in this case, the former Watt & Shand building, which had been on the National Register of Historic Places), they decided the thing to do was to gut it, leaving the facade standing, and plop the tower of concrete inside of it. Oh, and little to no apparent effort was made to match the design (or even color) of the original building, much less the surrounding edifices.
Construction is scheduled to end this spring. I have no doubt that, initially, the Center will see much use, much as the Brunswick Mall did in 1970. But, what happens when the novelty wears off? We're going to left with yet another expensive, hideous reminder of urban renewal gone bad and concrete gone wild.