Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A City in the Midst of a 21st Century Renaissance

I walked out the front door and as I turned to lock it, my glasses fogged up so much I could not see the lock. I fumbled, wiped my glasses on my shirt, tried again and succeeded. Already sweating although only 7:30 in the morning, I was glad my day would be spent in air conditioned comfort.

Summers in Lancaster County PA, my hometown for over 35 years. I remember the crushing humidity not too fondly.

I walked along the brick sidewalk to my destination: the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, a complex symbolizing the changes rocking this once sleepy backwater undergoing a 21st century renaissance. Dinner the evening before with friends revealed details about changes occurring in the city.   Attracted by reasonable housing and commercial rental costs, young folks have been moving into the city and opening boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and art galleries. Activity, enthusiasm, youthful vibrancy energize the city. 

On the other hand tensions are beginning to occur between long-term residents, small businesspeople and the artsy crowd, and the most recent residents - folks swooping in from the New York metropolitan area and other nearby cities. Many newcomers populating downtown are retirees seeking city life at an affordable price - the definition of affordable varying widely!

Developers snatch up old, decaying factory buildings, many vacant for years, redevelop the properties and sell condo apartments for big bucks. 

Curious about prices I wandered over to zillow.com (virtually, of course). One building undergoing development advertised condos from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,890 square foot apartment for $659,900 to a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 950 square feet apartment for $239,800.

Locals fear being priced out of the market and worry the people responsible for revitalizing the city will no longer be able to live and work downtown.

Hub's comment on learning the newest trend, "Why Lancaster?" 

I am not sure of the answer, but outsiders have been visiting the area for years. An Amish population as well as other Old Order religious groups, many foregoing modern amenities like electricity, initially attracted tourists. 

People have been fleeing high-tax, high cost of living places like New York, New Jersey, and the New England states for years, until recently Florida and the Southwest the most popular destinations. Other areas now draw retirees, and Lancaster city appears to be one of these new 'in' places, attracting retirees eager to participate in the city's cultural life and restaurant scene.

Lancaster city declined during the latter part of the 20th century, like so many cities across the country. Suburban sprawl flourished while cities crumpled. Central Farmers Market drew believers in fresh, homegrown produce (like me), but many suburbanites refused to venture downtown. Hospital stays and visits, and possibly a show at the Fulton Theater often the only exceptions.
I passed a French bakery and bistro, open about a year and a half and one of many delightful additions to the city, and could not resist wandering inside. The word beautiful hardly begins to describe the treats artfully displayed.
I love the fact old cities and towns are coming back to life. Although a daughter of suburbia, I am not a fan of suburban sprawl. I will occasionally return to check on Lancaster's metamorphosis. 

Stay tuned...