EDITORIAL: A “jewel” or a “thorn?”

The Editorial on Saturday’s Lancaster New Era “Jewel in crown of downtown” goes on to gush: “The convention center/hotel is billed as a top-notch, one-of-a-kind facility, and it does not disappoint.”

Time will tell whether or not it will “disappoint.” The same things were reported upon the opening of the Hilton Hotel in Lancaster Square some decades ago. But because of a paucity of hotel demand in downtown Lancaster (which still exists), it soon had to be taken over by its lender who could not find a buyer for decades and then sold at a tiny percent of the original cost. The Hilton, later called Ramada, and now The Brunswick, never has come close to meeting its expectations.

As for retired Fulton Bank former CEO Rufus Fulton possessing the “vision,” let’s just say that Fulton Bank was content to be a 10% part of Penn Square Partners when they were planning a $40 million improvement. As the project changed and grew towards $180 million, the bank appeared a hostage and ceased to invest further. It allowed its share in the limited partnership to shrink. Finally they were able to sell out to High and the Newspapers.

Furthermore, we suspect that the newspapers also got taken for a ride. However, their executives just weren’t smart enough to take notice. Moreover, they ‘whored’ their news departments which have not recovered the public’s confidence

Meanwhile Dale High’s firm raked in lavish development fees and got quasi-competitive construction and construction management contracts, first dibs on naming rights, along with eventual half ownership of a hotel underwritten by grants, real estate tax exemptions (despite PSP’s promises to the contrary), and city tax payers guarantees. Despite representations by PSP of having made a major investment, most of the so called investment is simply future payments out of anticipated revenue for debt service on the bonds.

Only time will tell whether the Marriott will be Lancaster’s “jewel” or a few years down the road a “thorn.”

Nevertheless, we wish the Marriott and the Convention Center well. After all, it is we taxpayers who have most of the skin in the game.