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High-profile development projects remain stagnant

Some perennial Lancaster
County projects remained
on the drawing board – or close to it – in 2008.

Some perennial Lancaster
County projects remained
on the drawing board – or close to it – in 2008.

The reasons for the continued delays are myriad, from a
dearth of parking to land-use disagreements to the shaky economy.

Often, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The Lancaster Press building

The prominent property at North Prince and West Lemon
streets
has been vacant for more than a decade.

One main bugaboo for the site has been its lack of parking –
and that factor continues to delay plans a group of local developers have to
turn the site into residential and commercial space.

In 2006, Lancaster Press Partners – composed of The Drogaris
Cos.
, Wagman Construction Inc.’s Urban Group, Susquehanna
Real Estate
and Fourth River Development 
– announced plans to buy the 90,000-square-foot building from the city
and transform it into 47 residential units, plus some retail space.

The city is trying to assemble the roughly $10 million of
funding needed to build a 400-space parking garage on a surface lot behind the
building, said Randy Patterson, the city’s economic development &
revitalization director. 

The garage would provide parking for Lancaster Press, as
well as for several nearby restaurants and residents. The city should come
forward with a better estimate of what the garage could look like – and what
the city is able to afford – within 60 days, Patterson said.

Sunnyside
Peninsula

Plans for a mixed-income residential community on the
largest undeveloped piece of land within city limits were scheduled to be
completed by spring 2005.

Lancaster
County, which owned the
land, was to partner with nonprofit developer Community Basics Inc. and the
county’s Housing and Redevelopment Authorities to use roughly 20 acres to build
300 residential units, including apartments, townhomes and single-family units.

But after a late 2003 groundbreaking, a new slate of county
commissioners halted the project in 2004, saying the county might need to use
the land for its own facilities.

The city is hammering out an agreement to assume ownership
of Sunnyside from Lancaster County, minus the county’s Youth Intervention
Center and 2 acres the
county is reserving for its future use, said County Administrator Charlie
Douts.

When the deal is complete, Patterson said the city wants to
go back to Community Basics to see if it’s still interested in the project. If
so, the developer would have to modify the original plans to account for the
county properties.

Excelsior Hall

Little more than a year ago, it appeared development was
imminent for the East King Street
landmark
, vacant since 1977.

In December 2007, a partnership made up of Realtor Jeff
LeFever, architect Richard Levengood and businessman John Dantinne purchased
the 1870s-era building from the city’s redevelopment authority with the
intention of turning it into a mix of retail and high-end residential.

The partnership, called Two Forty Associates, has been
working to take Excelsior down to a “vanilla shell” ready for potential
tenants. Two Forty also has been working on the adjoining Sprenger Brewery;
Excelsior originally was built as a social hall for the brewery. 

But LeFever said the economy has intervened. Several
prospective tenants have expressed interest in the site, but not one has
committed.

“Until we can attract a tenant or buyers, we’re at the mercy
of the credit situation,” he said.

The partnership abandoned the idea of condos when it became
clear that on-site, secure parking was not feasible, LeFever said.

But the site remains viable for restaurant, office or
retail, he said, and the completion of a new parking garage across King Street has
sweetened the deal.

“It’s the whole economy – someone has to say ‘Yes, it’s OK to
buy,’ and nobody’s saying that,” LeFever said.

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