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The plannerAlliance COO working with communities to enhance Lancaster

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Marshall Snively leads the Lancaster City Alliance, which has been recognized for its economic development plan.
Marshall Snively leads the Lancaster City Alliance, which has been recognized for its economic development plan. - (Photo / )

As the executive vice president and chief operations officer of the Lancaster City Alliance, Marshall Snively is plugged into downtown, and in the eight years he's lived in Lancaster, he's seen a lot of change.

One affected his employer. James Street merged in 2013 with a group doing similar work, the Lancaster Alliance.

“We were already working together pretty well, and we shared a lot of the same companies on our boards, so it was a great opportunity to look at how we could sort of expand our resources but also solidify the partnership that we already had,” said Snively, who previously worked in Baltimore.

Now known as the Lancaster City Alliance, the group was recently recognized by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association for its economic development strategic plan.


Lives: Downtown Lancaster

College: University of Maryland, College Park

For fun: “I travel, dine out and cook … enjoying the Barnstormer fireworks from our roof deck.”

Favorite vacation spots: “Rehoboth several times a year, and I try to make it to Miami each winter. Other than that, mostly other urban locales like New York, Baltimore, Philly. I love being so close to the Amtrak station.”

Other careers he considered: “I went to college for architecture, but quickly realized I have a passion for how cities evolve and wanted a career in advocating for urban areas through planning and economic development.”

The plan was created at the request of Lancaster City Mayor Rick Gray at the same time as James Street Improvement District and the Lancaster Alliance came together.

While creating the plan, the organization learned a lot about the needs of Lancaster city and not only how to improve the city, but also how to market it as part of a thriving county.

Q: What is your favorite thing to point to downtown and say, “I was a part of that?”

A: The downtown has a fantastic, very close-knit merchant community, and we've always had a history of that. I would say over the last five years, especially, it's been gratifying to see how many come to our monthly merchant meetings. To be part of that is very rewarding.

I'd say the other piece is the work that we do in the community — we always say that we don't want to do work for communities, we want do work with communities and empower them to enhance their quality of life.

Is there any part of the city that you feel goes untouched?

What we found through our economic development planning process when we met with stakeholders, there's no doubt that the amount of the investment that's occurred in the city — the majority of that has been in downtown and the North West part of the community. That is something that we want to see spread throughout other areas of the city. So in the plan itself, we were intentional in focusing on commercial corridors outside of downtown as well. So over the next 10, 15 years, our goal is to see more investment on Manor Street, South Duke, South Queen, South Prince and have these areas be more neighborhood, commercial hubs for the communities that they serve.

Is there something you think downtown is lacking as far as a type of business?

On a personal level, I'd like to see more men's clothing.

What we're lacking now — and this isn't just downtown — is more housing. Right now it's pretty difficult to keep up with the demand, and that's housing of all types from affordable up to luxury.

We found through the study that city residents spend over $450 million outside of the city on goods and services that they can't find here.

In the plan, we're hoping for at least 100,000 square feet of retail, and we would love to see more office space. We have some office space, but we think it lost some opportunity for bigger office users, because we didn't have spaces large enough.

In regard to the economic development plan, do you break that down into certain responsibilities or is it more of a group effort?

We're intentional in saying that it's a community-owned plan, so we are working with I think over 50 community organizations to implement the plan.

There are four strategies. The first one is, we're going back out to the communities to make sure that they remain engaged in the plan and get their feedback. Secondly, there's a strategy devoted to cultivating entrepreneurs in the city, and that's huge. To us, the future of the city pretty much lies on the back of the entrepreneurs. I mean, when you think about it, it's really no change from the history of Lancaster. You know, most of the businesses that are in Lancaster are home-grown so it all started from one idea. We're very surprised at the amount of entrepreneurial activity in the city, and we want to make sure that we have the environment that entrepreneurs can grow and thrive.

Third, the big one, is funding the plan. A goal of the plan is for the city to realize $1 billion of investment over the next 15 years, so we've been having regular meetings with financial institutions, foundations, the government officials, to look at the existing tools to get projects done and to make sure that we and the public — the developers, the investors — know how to use it to the best of our abilities. Also, to look at new pools that may need to be created to get projects done.

And then four is, there's a strategy that focuses on marketing the city as a great place to live, as a great place to invest and a great place to visit.

We're starting to market the region as a great place to invest with the city being at the heart of that.

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