Lancaster city is one of two Pennsylvania cities allowed to take part in a new economic development program that is expected to unlock more than $200 million in investments, Gov. Tom Corbett announced today.
The governor’s office said this afternoon that both Lancaster and Bethlehem are designated City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.
The zones are designed to attract new investments and create jobs in downtowns that have struggled to attract development.
“Our local communities are the foundation of Pennsylvania’s economy. We developed the CRIZ program to spark local economic growth, create jobs, and improve the lives of city residents and visitors,” Corbett said in a prepared statement.
Officials in Lancaster were holding a news conference this afternoon to talk about the new designation.
Lancaster and Bethlehem will be expected to work closely with the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Revenue to identify priority projects.
Earlier this month, city officials said they intended to pursue more than $10 million in redevelopment plans for Lancaster Square. While the downtown has redeveloped around it, the plaza in the 100 block of North Queen Street has mostly remained a concrete wasteland.
City officials said that, with the help of the CRIZ designation, they would look to develop a bowling alley, bocce courts, a live performance theater, restaurant and game rooms in the now-condemned building on the square’s east side.
Potential developers have expressed interest in the past, but the projects never came to fruition.
It is one of eight projects listed in the first phase of the city’s CRIZ application. Total investment from those projects is expected to top $210 million.
The two structures flanking Lancaster Square are also included in the application. The vacant, windowless Bulova building, which was once a department store, could be rebuilt as a retail space, with upper-level offices, as part of a $30.4 million project.
The former Brunswick Hotel, partially reopened as Hotel Lancaster last month, will undergo a $15.8 million renovation under the plan.
Through the CRIZ program, vacant, desolate or abandoned space can be developed for commercial use, thereby creating jobs, increasing personal incomes, growing state and local tax revenues and reviving local economies.
Cities eligible to apply for CRIZ designations based on local economic indicators included Altoona, Bethlehem, Erie, Lancaster, Reading, Wilkes-Barre and York.