LANCASTER -- This city received $15 million in capital budget
redevelopment assistance funds from the state to help finance the
construction of a convention center.
The convention center, to be built adjacent to the historic Watt
& Shand building on South Queen Street, will rejuvenate
Lancaster's downtown business district, officials said.
Along with a plan to convert the Watt & Shand site into a
mixed-use hotel and retail complex, the new project is expected to
generate 1,000 new jobs. "Lancaster County is one of Pennsylvania's
strongest tour-ist magnets," said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
Although Lancaster County attracts more than 5 million visitors
each year, many of them don't venture into downtown Lancaster, the
A convention center "will draw those tourists, and the money
they spend, right into the heart of the Red Rose City," the
According to a recent economic impact report, tourism in
Lancaster County pumped more than $1.2 billion into the local
economy in 1998. In addition, the report showed the county's
tourism industry supported more than 18,500 jobs.
A feasibility study conducted for the convention center and
hotel project estimated they would bring in 200,000 visitors to the
city each year, primarily through conventions.
The design of the convention center and hotel are in keeping
with the city's historic character, a major drawing card for
tourists. "One of the most exciting features of this project is
that it preserves and enhances the historic landmarks and alleys"
of downtown Lancaster, Ridge said.
Penn Square Partners, a consortium consisting of a bank, a real
estate firm and a newspaper publisher, will convert the Watt &
Shand building into a $45 million, 281-room hotel that will afford
up to 17,200 square feet of retail space.
The 61,000-square-foot, $23 million convention center is slated
to be built next to the hotel and will be financed through bonds
and the $15 million state grant.
Construction of the convention center is to begin soon, with a
projected opening in January 2001. The convention center and hotel
complex is intended to be the cornerstone of a massive downtown