I suspect that Lancaster Newspapers’ involvement in the hotel and convention center project might have started out with good intentions. After all, LNP has made significant investments in downtown Lancaster in the past. But once they were legally bound to High, they found themselves being dragged along with S. Dale High’s personal ambitions. When opposition […]
In a stunning development that could have substantial consequences for the proposed Mariott Hotel/Convention Center development, an email has surfaced from a senior PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) analyst, which says that because of the drastic changes in the nature and scope of the project, the powerhouse accounting firm asked that the board’s Executive Director, David Hixson, remove all reference to PwC from its website.
Despite repeated requests by the undersigned then city councilman and other officials and concerned citizens to view the PricewaterhouseCoopers 2000 and 2002 purported “feasibility studies,” access was denied. It was alarming to learn recently that the so called “feasibility studies” were merely market studies. But, upon finally having an opportunity to review the market studies, it is shocking to discover that they are more negative than positive in their implications. Here are quotes from the studies:
If the controversy over the historical buildings and the hoteliers’ lawsuit were among the first early skirmishes in the convention center civil war in Lancaster, then the fight over who would manage the taxpayer-financed convention center was its first major battle.
After buying the Oblender furniture store and properties at 45-49 S. Queen Street and 21 and 23 E. Vine Street for about $1.3 million, the Convention Center Authority found itself presented with another public relations predicament.
In addition to imposing a hotel room rental tax, the Lancaster County Commissioners established the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority (LCCCA) in their September 15, 1999, resolutions. The LCCCA’s mandate was to administer the construction of what was then projected to be a 61,000 square foot convention center at a cost of $35 million.
A constant refrain coming from supporters of the convention center project, including Sen. Armstrong, Rep. Barley, Mayor Smithgall, Commissioner Terry Kauffman — was that the project would especially help the local hospitality industry and needed its support. They were unsuccessful in persuading those said to benefit from the great idea.
After the Stadium Bill became law, in February 1999, Lancaster Newspapers’ role in the convention center and hotel project started to seep into its reporting, and bias began to show.
The following exchange between a viewer who closely monitored the evolution of the Convention Center Project and investigative reporter Jim Sneddon both sheds light on the forces driving the project and the depth of Sneddon’s research.
The issue contended is at what point in time was the future sale of the Watt & Shand building from Penn Square Partners to Redevelopment Agency of the City of Lancaster (RACL) under consideration. (Later in the series, NewsLanc will address the propriety of the sale price.)
When Governor Tom Ridge signed the Stadium Bill in the first days of February, 1999—adding half a billion dollars to the Pennsylvania state capital budget—Lancaster County was virtually promised a $15 million check to build a downtown convention center.
The “small local group of owners” mentioned in the Winterbottom report, negotiating to buy the historic Watt & Shand/Bon Ton building “at a fair price,” were headed by three of the twelve founding and executive committee members of the Lancaster Alliance – S. Dale High; Jack M. Buckwalter; and Rufus A. Fulton, Jr.
Below are the list of Convention Center Authority Board Members during the events that NewsLanc will be describing through a series of special reports over the next few months. The plan is to publish the series every two weeks rather than once a month as originally announced.
The concern is to avoid providing so much information at one time as to make it difficult to fully read and absorb, yet not to allow so much time to pass that memories of past disclosures fade.
The origin of the Lancaster County Convention Center begins with an obscure law called the “Pennsylvania Third-Class County Convention Center Authority Act.” The law was passed by the legislature, and signed by Governor Robert Casey on December 27, 1994.