Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's not just the $200 million

Walking around the block before attending Thursday's special Convention Center Board meeting, an observer experienced first hand the barrenness of the first block of South Queen Street.

Most of the west side of the block is fronted by the unbroken wall and windows of the Lancaster Newspapers building. A few shops make up the rest. The east side is the Convention Center, extending from King Street downhill to Vine Street.

Even if the center lives up to the hopes of its sponsors, there will be no activities at least half of the days of the year, perhaps two-thirds. So a "no man’s land" will exist between Penn Square, the very heart of downtown, and the southern part of the city. It is unlikely that even hotel guests will want to venture onto the block.

Had the proposed alternative mixed use plan prevailed of a high rise condominium with offices, boutiques and cafes, the sidewalks would brim with people, even into the late hours of the evening, and on weekends until the early morning hours.

Such an active block would have spread downtown commerce and gentrification to the Seventh Ward.

The observer, experienced in developing communities, grieved over the missed opportunity as he continued to the LCCCA meeting.