Tuesday, August 19, 2008

City set to receive $750,000 in County Urban Enhancement Grants

The Lancaster County Commissioners are expected to approve, Wednesday, $1.875 million in "Urban Enhancement Fund" grants for 15 projects around the County, including streetscape enhancements, security camera installation, and Lancaster Square renovation/demolition in the city.

The funding comes from a $25 million bond issue from the County Commissioners in 2005, 80% of which is used for farmland and open space preservation, and 20% of which is allocated for economic and community development in urban areas, according to information provided by the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

A grant to the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition (LCSC) in the amount of $250,000 will cover 18% of the total projected cost of $1,396,500 to "install 50 public safety surveillance cameras in the downtown area as part of security precautions in advance of the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center's opening in March 2009."

The County Planning Commission's Urban Enhancement Fund Grant Application Review Committee writes, "Cameras not only assist police in crime investigations but may also contribute to public perception of public safety, which is a crucial component of the economic success of both the city and the county."

A grant to the the City of Lancaster in the amount of $250,000, or 13% of the total projected project cost of $1,908,000 will help fund downtown "streetscape improvements." The grant committee writes,

"By enhancing the public amenities of the downtown, such as installing brick banding along the curb line, reconstructing concrete sidewalks, installing double-headed boulevard lighting, adding bulb outs and brick crosswalks, plating new street trees, and adding street furniture, the city will encourage revitalization in the urban center, encourage the retail/commercial sector redevelopment, [and] encourage home ownership, in addition to making the downtown more attractive for visitors."

Another County Urban Enhancement Fund grant will also be provided to the city in the amount of $250,000 - half of the projected cost for renovation-demolition on the east side of Lancaster Square across from Binn's Park. The grant committee writes:

"This project will replace deteriorated infrastructure and poor urban design with appropriate, pedestrian-oriented amenities and building design more compatible with the historic urban character of the city. It is expected to serve as a catalyst to strengthen the City's entire commercial core, attracting new private investment, increasing job opportunities, and strengthening the tax base."

In "Phase 1" of the project, the City of Lancaster's application attests, "the City of Lancaster is undertaking selective demolition of portions of the east side of Lancaster Square to reduce the scale of the existing structure, eliminate unsafe structures, and open up the plaza area."

"Phase 2 of the project, this application, is to make certain improvements to the east side of the Square, including lighting along the walkways, replacing the broken brick pavers in the plaza, installing new stairs and improving the electrical service for public events in the square."

Also at their Wednesday meeting, the Commissioners are expected to approve $11,677.02 in change orders regarding renovations at the 150 N. Queen St. County administrative building.

This amount is "within the placeholders that KCI presented last month to the general public," said Interim County Engineer Keith Harner.