Below are excerpts from LNP article “Lancaster city seeks proposals for Bulova building, adjacent city property” and NewsLanc’s comments:
LNP: “…The city intends to use eminent domain to take the Bulova building at North Queen and East Orange streets.”
NEWSLANC: Over two years ago, NewsLanc publisher / retired real estate developer Robert Field pleaded with Mayor Rick Gray to be allowed to meet with city development director Randy Patterson to discuss how the then moribund Brunswick Hotel, its annex, and the Bulova Building could all be acquired at reasonable costs, razed, and re-sold for development of retail, commercial and especially residential condominium uses.
Field proposed the use of eminent domain if the Bulova Building could not be purchased through its bankruptcy court. Patterson with Gray’s backing refused to allow Field to meet with him.
LNP: “That means the city would pay fair market value for the property and the building’s lien holders would then be paid.”
NEWSLANC: There is no certainty “lien holders would then be paid” if the city took over the Brunswick via eminent domain. All creditors would be entitled to is funds available from the presumed market price that the City would pay. Assuming that the City does not overpay for the Bulova Building, the creditors may have to accept less than the face value of their loan.
LNP: “The preferred redevelopment of the east side of Lancaster Square would include mixed-use development to include additional retail or restaurant uses built to North Queen Street; retail or other active pedestrian uses in the first floor of the Bulova Building; entertainment uses, professional office space and residential development as for-sale or market rate apartments,” the request said…
NEWSLANC: Why not consider the razing of the Bulova Building and the development of upscale residential condominiums, to take advantage of the national trend of young people and ’emptynesters’ back to downtown.
LNP: “The city also said interested developers should contact owners of the The Hotel Lancaster in the former Brunswick hotel at North Queen and Chestnut streets. The owners, John Meeder and Sam Wilsker, have plans for a $10.4 million entertainment complex just south of the hotel…”
NEWSLANC: From this we can surmise that Meeder and his investors already have the inside tract on what is to be done with the Bulova Building.
LNP: “Since the city announced it planned to take the Bulova Building, three developers have contacted the city, Patterson said. Bids will be accepted until noon July 17.”
NEWSLANC: When was that announced and to whom? Less than sixty remaining days for submitting a proposal is a fifteen to twenty million project is absurd. The deadline seems to be meant to discourage developers presenting any concepts or plans that has not already been informally decided upon.
Another relevant example of poor downtown development leadership by Gray and Patterson follows:
If the Lancaster Hotel receives a $15 million for renovation and upgrading, it will compete directly with the Marriott Hotel, which is owned by the City and leased to Penn Square Partners (with an option to buy for virtually ‘peanuts.’) In addition it has a ‘sweet heart’ deal which enables it to receive huge concession earnings that should instead go to the Convention Center. These sleights of hands both enabled the hotel to be financed at lower interest rates, to be exempt from real estate taxes, to earn money at the expense of the Convention Center, and to avoid large losses if the project turned out to lose money.
Assuming the Lancaster Hotel (former Brunswick) does invest $15 million in renovation, it will double the number of upscale branded downtown hotel rooms. This could cause the Marriott to incur large operating losses. In that case, Penn Square Partners have every right under its lease purchase agreement to simply turn back the hotel to the City and walk away. (We fantasize Mayor Rick Gray on the front desk and Randy Patterson cleaning rooms.) Of course the losses would be borne by the tax payers who may not find anything funny about it.
So with the fate of Lancaster Square East apparently determined in the back rooms, there would seem to be only one other prime location possibly on the horizon downtown for newly built, prime office space and residential condominiums.
That would be the LNP offices and idle plant encompassing much of the block sided by King Street, Queen Street, and Vine Street, and just across from the Convention Center. You can’t find a better downtown location than that! And it would encourage gentrification spreading southward, rather than mostly to the north and west.
If so, hopefully this time LNP and the city will get it right.