More music moves as Rock Lititz plans expansion

Michael Yoder//September 16, 2019

More music moves as Rock Lititz plans expansion

Michael Yoder//September 16, 2019

When the first building started to take shape five years ago on the future Rock Lititz campus in Warwick Township in Lancaster County, the plan was to turn a former farm into the Hollywood of the concert industry.

The 100-foot-tall, 52,000-square-foot building simply called The Studio was the first piece of the puzzle that officially opened in September 2014, reportedly bringing in some of the biggest names in entertainment like Taylor Swift to U2 to get a feel for the staging being built by TAIT and Atomic and the sound produced by Clair Global.

The second piece of the puzzle was the construction of Pod 2, a 250,000-square-foot building adjacent to The Studio that opened in 2016 and now houses nearly 30 different businesses within its walls. Add in the Hotel Rock Lititz, a five-floor, 92,000-square-foot hotel with 139 rooms that opened last fall, and the Rock Lititz campus has become its own self-sustaining location for the behind-the-scenes workers that make concerts and other live events come to life.

Now the partners in the Rock Lititz concept are taking the next step, putting plans forward at the Warwick Township Planning Commission meeting Sept. 25 for construction of new buildings on the 96-acre campus.

The plans for four new buildings to be constructed on the Rock Lititz campus will be presented before the Warwick Township Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 25. (Image: Submitted)

The planned construction calls for four buildings, adding 285,000 square feet of multi-tenant space, a 38,000 square-foot rehearsal studio and a 10,300 square-foot community theater spearheaded by Michael Tait, founder and former CEO of TAIT.

“Our success in filling the existing 250,000 square feet of tenant space at Pod 2 and subsequent interest by other live-event industry businesses indicates to us that there is a need and an opportunity to bring more talent, creativity and technology to the Rock Lititz Community,” said Andrea Shirk, Rock Lititz general manager. “We intend to grow as a collaborative community to better serve our clients.”

Pod 1, which is designed to be split into two segments surrounding The Studio, and Pod 5, placed at the southwest corner of the property across the Santo Domingo Creek, will lease space similar to the model being used in Pod 2. Shirk said the “industry cluster” model promotes collaboration and innovation between different companies in the concert sector.

Some of the existing businesses already filling spots in Pod 2 include: Pyrotek Special Effects, a company specializing in concert effects like lasers, pyrotechnics and confetti with offices across North America; Upstage Video, a production company providing video screening for everything from PGA Tour events to corporate premier events like Microsoft; and Control Freak Systems that creates its own software and hardware for video, audio, lighting and motion control.

Shirk said demand from businesses wishing to come onto the campus has been the impetus for the building of pods 1 and 5. While she wouldn’t comment on the price tag for the project, estimates at the time for the Pod 2 construction were around $21.8 million, according to news reports in the Central Penn Business Journal.

“We look forward to bringing together more incredible talent from different sectors from within the live event industry,” said Shirk. “The diverse mixture of expertise within the Rock Lititz Community is driving unmatched innovation, further cementing Lititz as the center of businesses supporting the live event industry.”

Demand for more rehearsal space is also driving the need for the construction of Studio 3, Shirk said, which will sit next to the original Studio on the campus. The new studio will be slightly smaller than the original, Shirk said, but will offer similar amenities like dressing rooms, a production office and catering facilities.

The most unique portion of the proposed project is Mickey’s Black Box, the 10,300 square-foot community theater that will sit near the entrance to the campus. Tait, whose nickname is “Mickey,” said he envisions the theater as a place where emerging and professional playwrights, actors, choreographers and dancers could come to hone their craft.

The theater is designed to seat about 265 people, Tait said, with seating and staging that can be easily reconfigured to any dimension needed for a performance. He called the concept for the building a “blank canvas” that offers flexibility in production of shows.

“I want to provide a space that recognizes and supports the arts at a community level, that connects artist and patron, and that elevates the presentation and exchange of ideas,” he said.

If the project is approved, Rock Lititz officials said construction could start as early as the end of this year. Plans call for all four buildings to be constructed at the same time using many of the same companies and workers involved in The Studio and Pod 2 projects.

Shirk said the construction manager for the project will be Ned Pelger of Elizabeth Township-based Pelger Engineering & Construction, and the general trades contractor is Bottom Line Contracting of Warwick Township. The architect of the buildings is Benjamin Asher Samberg of West Lampeter Township-based Lancaster Architectural Works.

Dan Zimmerman, Warwick Township manager, said he always envisioned some sort of business center going into the 96-acre spot just west of Route 501 and Newport Road and sitting north of Lititz because it was zoned campus industrial. What Zimmerman said he couldn’t have imagined was how specialized the campus would become and how it has transformed the community.

“The magnitude and the nature of it becoming this international location for a specific service and a specific industry that I wouldn’t have imagined,” Zimmerman said. “And kudos to the three original partners – TAIT, Clair Global and Atomic – to have the initiative and say, ‘Let’s see what we can do here.’ But it’s been collaborative, and it’s worked out.”

Rock Lititz hasn’t come with some detractors. Shortly after The Studio opened, local residents began to complain about their houses shaking from the reverberations during rehearsals. A major soundproofing project of the building was undertaken, and most of the complaints ceased. The new studio project incorporates the same soundproofing measures, Shirk said.

Some residents have also complained about the loss of farmland at the campus, Zimmerman said, but the project comes with the stipulation of transfer of development rights (TDR) to add money into preservation efforts of other local farmland. Zimmerman said the amount of TDR money raised from the Rock Lititz project will finance the township’s preservation projects for years to come, including two farms that are set to be preserved by the end of the year.

Zimmerman said the biggest impact Rock Lititz has had locally is creating a space of smart development that has brought high-tech jobs and tax revenue to the community, providing a place where young people want to live and work.

“What I think is really interesting and what people a sort of overlooking is the retention of the youth in the community,” Zimmerman said. “It’s an industry that’s very attractive to young people. I’ve observed people say their son decided to stay and that they’re working out at Rock Lititz after getting a degree in engineering. So a lot of times there’s the exodus of youth, particularly in the state of Pennsylvania.”