Saturday, January 10, 2009

Irony of Ironies: Now they tell us!

The Intelligencer Journal / New Era waited until three months before the opening of the Convention Center Project to publish an interview on Jan. 10th of local historian David Schuyler under the heading "Facing a city's new realities."

And is the message that of those who bullied and connived the Convention Center Project? Hardly.

Rather he makes the same points of Project critics April Koppenhaver, Bonnie Miller, Randy Carney and, among many others, NewsLanc's publisher Robert Field.

Schuyler, a professor of American studies at Franklin & Marshall College, is the author of "A City Transformed: Redevelopment, Race and Suburbanization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1940-1980," excerpts from which NewsLanc recently discussed over several articles.

Schuyler reflects upon the failed Lancaster Square: "They never asked, 'What's special about Lancaster?' There was a generic idea that it would work. But what works in one area isn't necessarily going to work in another." Sounds like the messages of the various market reports and the PKF Feasibility Study for the Convention Center Project.

So what about the future of the city?

"You aren't going to get families with small children to live in the city because of the schools," he said. "And I say that as a parent whose child (daughter Nancy, now grown) went through the School District of Lancaster."

"Target recent college graduates, empty nesters and senior citizens to live in the city," Schuyler said. "They have money to spend, they want to patronize local shops and restaurants and they will expect a level of support from the city to maintain their quality of life."

Oh my. Oh my. Had Watt & Shand been developed into prestigiously, upscale condos as once planned instead of a likely second Lancaster Square, downtown would have been revitalized and made far more secure.

Schuyler concludes optimistically: "I think Lancaster's better days lie ahead. Cities have attributes that are becoming more apparent to people, like being able to walk around or ride a bike. They are much more energy-efficient."

Yes, it's about Lancastrians, not about luring conventioneers to an out-of-the-way, poorly placed, under served location for the profit or powerful business interests.

The one thing that Lancaster has gotten right over the past decade is the Pennsylvania Academy of Music which benefits from the location, image and the potential of downtown Lancaster and can lead to the salvation of the Brunswick Hotel. A score of local philanthropists and hundreds of others gave money (they didn't make money!) and did a great service for our community and potentially talented young musicians worldwide.

Also there is the great potential for expansion and upgrading of the downtown Public Library that attracts over 1100 local visitors a day.

Let's hope that our community isn't so disillusioned and impoverished in years to come from the Convention Center Project that it is unable to rally behind and support what is indeed needed and likely to work.