Friday, December 19, 2008

Museum Tower Condos needed. But will location work?

The announcement of high rise condominiums by a first rate team of developer Steve Risk, architects John De Vitry and Ken Hammel, and real estate broker Marilyn Berger bodes well for downtown Lancaster.

The Museum Tower Condominiums would be built above the combination museum and parking garage to be constructed on the vacant northeast corner of Queen and Chestnut.

The sizes will range from a minimum 1,150 square feet to as large as 4,000 square feet.

We believe there is a need for upscale condominiums in downtown Lancaster and, if an entire floor were to cost in excess of $2 million, under appropriate conditions we suspect that well heeled buyers would be waiting in line.

But unlike the potential that existed with the historic and beloved Watt & Shand building, the Museum Towers will need to compensate for its lack of ground floor space and not quite prime location. Further, were the opposite Brunswick Hotel still a Hilton with vibrant restaurants and ongoing entertainment rather than playing poor cousin to the Marriott, it would serve as an attractive amenity. Instead, the neighborhood lacks style and vibrancy.

Donald Trump understands the importance of a sense of 'presence.' Without a ground floor with a sumptuous lobby, security and meeting rooms, and without a dramatic entrance fitting for Lancaster's foremost downtown address, the facility may lack the allure required by those wealthy empty nesters who are interested in moving from their fashionable suburban homes to a prestigious downtown condominium.

It will be interested to see if the project moves ahead and, if so, to what stratum of the market it is directed.

If this location doesn't work out, may we suggest the current Bulova building site? Moreover, for those willing to wait a few years longer, there may be another opportunity for condos in the former Watt & Shand.