here's what we asked

Over the last several months,  you've told us that you love our urban communities (Lancaster City and boroughs), but also want to make them better. We wanted to know more, so we asked you:


Lancaster County's urban communities - Lancaster City and boroughs.

here's what you told us

1. What Three things would you invest in to make your community a better place?

2. How would you make these issues better?

3. what makes your community unique?

We have a community that actively works together to sustain and improve itself in way that is progressive while maintaining the area’s core values.
— Lancaster City
Boroughs offer urban living that many people desire today. Helping boroughs understand/take advantage of this opportunity should be a priority.
— Elizabethtown
River access/views, architecture, history, small town sense of community, willingness to progress
— Columbia

here's the reality

Why focus on urban communities?

  • In Lancaster County, we love our boroughs and city, but we also want to make them better. They were among the most commonly mentioned places in our outreach so far for places2040.
  • Urban places have tremendous potential for investment, because they already have the infrastructure to support development – roads, sidewalks, water & sewer pipes, buildings, and parks.
  • By focusing new development in existing communities, we can accommodate a lot of Lancaster County’s growth without encroaching on farmland or natural areas.  
  • The city and boroughs have an efficient development pattern. The high concentration of jobs, homes, and other destinations in boroughs makes it possible to walk, bike, and take public transportation – which saves money, reduces traffic congestion, and improves air quality. 
  • Historically, urban places have served as regional centers of industry, commerce, and entertainment. Many of the older buildings built for these purposes have tremendous potential for adaptive reuse – conversion to uses that meet today’s needs.



So... what challenges do urban places face?

  • Although infrastructure exists, it’s often aging and in need of expensive repairs.
  • It’s difficult for older buildings to meet current building codes. Sometimes, upper stories or entire buildings sit vacant because owners can’t find an affordable way to meet codes.
  • Urban places tend to have higher tax burdens than townships.
    • Older buildings tend to have a lower assessed value than newer ones, because they require continual reinvestment to keep their values high. Over time, maintenance issues add up. Owners may not be able to afford the necessary fixes, or may put it off.
    • Many important institutions (like churches or colleges) are located in boroughs, but they’re tax exempt. They don’t pay taxes like other properties, but boroughs still provide services to them!
    • Boroughs often little undeveloped land available for new development. This puts them at a disadvantage as compared with townships that have more open space to expand. But urban places have the opportunity to build up instead of out, preserving more green space.
  • The city and boroughs have a small land area, and Pennsylvania law essentially prevents them from expanding. They also have no control over development in adjacent townships. This kind of growth produces no revenue for a borough – but often generates indirect costs like traffic or stormwater runoff. New businesses located outside a borough may also compete with existing businesses downtown.

    here's what we can do about it

    Get involved in one of these local organizations already working to make our city and boroughs better.

    •  Economic Development Company of Lancaster County
      • The Lancaster County Boroughs Collaborative aims to make connections and generate/share needed information, build capacity to address opportunities and challenges, and develop an educational component around economic development.
      • Offers incentives, financing, and technical assistance for new and existing businesses in Lancaster County.
    • Lancaster County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities
      • The Lancaster County Land Bank can acquire or hold property in order to facilitate the return of vacant, blighted, abandoned, or tax-delinquent properties to productive use.
      • The Lancaster County Vacant Property Reinvestment Board works with municipalities and encourages property owners to fix up blighted properties. As a means of last resort, properties may be taken by eminent domain to be rehabbed or redeveloped.
      • Offers tools, funding, & technical assistance to promote redevelopment, provide quality & affordable housing, and assist with infrastructure maintenance & improvements. Partners with boroughs on key redevelopment/revitalization projects.  
    • Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry
      • The Think Local Initiative aims to improve our local economy by encouraging consumers and business decision makers to support local businesses when making purchases. More money stays in the community, local jobs are created, quality of life is improved.
      • Provides training & networking programs to help business and community leaders foster increased productivity and higher levels of success.
    • Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership
      • The Rehab Collaborative works with partners to acquire, rehabilitate, and resell properties to low and moderate income families – typically in urban neighborhoods as part of a broader revitalization strategy.
      • The Local Housing Investment Fund & Trust (LHIFT) provides flexible, below market rate loans for affordable housing and mixed use and/or mixed-income projects. LHIFT can be used to rehabilitate or renovate housing.



    Want to take matters into your own hands?

    Here's a great list of little things that each of us can do to make our communities better. 
    Which ones will you try first?