Buildings Are Not the Key to Lancaster’s ‘Revival’

April 3, 2013

For $25, you can go to an Hourglass Foundation event at the Ware Center this Thursday night to hear a Brookings Institution fellow feed you a line of bull.

What Christopher Leinberger is expected to say, according to Bernie Harris’s Intelligencer article yesterday, is that if Amtrak rolls out high-speed rail service along its Keystone line, Lancaster should have a street-car trolley that runs a loop that connects the train station with downtown.

Given the state of Lancaster city today, this focus on infrastructure is intolerable.

One of the recent great books on urban life and planning is Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. It includes these poignant reminders:

Cities are the absence of physical space between people and companies. They are proximity, density, closeness. They enable us to work and play together, and their success depends on the demand for physical connection.…

The folly of building-centric urban renewal reminds us that cities aren’t structures; cities are people.

The downtown convention center has yet to prove that it was anywhere close to worth its expense. Many of the brick-edged sidewalks and street crossings laid downtown four years ago are already cracked and ugly. Tearing down parts of the exterior of the monstrosity of a building at Lancaster Square (across from Binns Park) so far has done nothing to make the property more attractive to private developers.

It is easy and tempting to focus on buildings and infrastructure when focusing on the improvement of a city. I imagine that this is especially true for the people in Lancaster’s city government who need to spend endless hours figuring out how to deal with the city’s aging infrastructure, particularly for public utilities. If I spent all day figuring out how to mend old infrastructure, I’m sure I would dream of going beyond simply fixing what’s there to instead build shiny new buildings and transportation methods.

The problem, however, is that Lancaster isn’t its buildings and infrastructure. Lancaster is its people. And we can and should invest a lot more in them.

There are all sorts of things that deserve more attention, discussion, and funding than infrastructure. Here are a two starting points:

  1. Despite ongoing valiant efforts of a handful of citizens, Lancaster city still has precious few Latino public figures, especially when you consider that Hispanics will soon be the majority ethnic group in the city.
  2. Before being unanimously rejected by the city’s school board, the proposal for an Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School enjoyed far more support than it ever should have. It is going to be a long time before anyone can say that we as a community are doing enough for our school children.

Please chime in below in the comments. Do you agree that attention on infrastructure is misplaced? If so, what do you think is more important for Lancaster city to focus on right now?

Today on WITF-FM: My Voice

November 14, 2012

This is just a really quick post to let you know that Craig Layne of WITF interviewed my boss (Steve Wolgemuth) and me for today’s Money Works radio segment. The piece ran at 5:35 and 7:35 this morning, and it will run again at 5:44 p.m. today.

But you don’t have to time it, you can just listen to our explanation of near-user marketing right on

And if you don’t know about YDOP, the Lancaster, PA Internet marketing agency where I work, the radio segment is a quick introduction. After six years in business, we just moved our office from Manheim to downtown Lancaster, at 127 East Orange Street. And we love it. (Duh!)

Creativity CON 2012 – Sat., October 20

September 25, 2012

If you’re a creative type in need of a creative boost, you should know about Creativity CON 2012, taking place in Lancaster on Saturday, October 20.

The one-day conference costs $99 through this Sunday, September 30. (After that, it increases to $125 – still a good value.)

Creativity CON 2012

Creativity CON is a new event being pulled together by the folks of the amazing Wood Stove House: Jason Mundok and his wife Susanne, along with Steve Carlson.

I cannot say enough good things about these Lancaster residents. They are the perfect team to put on a quality event about creativity in the Lancaster area.

The day will include collaborative time but is centered around talks on subjects related to creativity. The speakers include Amanda Kemp, who appeared as an interviewee on the Lancast in January and Andrew Zahn, who self-published an ebook on creativity this month, along with Alyson Earl and Chad Martin. I haven’t met any of them, but their bios present them as charismatic and articulate.

The day’s closing speaker, Erich Goldstein, is someone I know well as an extremely creative and gifted artist and community member. He and I served together for years on the board of Creative Works of Lancaster, where I saw him living out (over the course of hundreds of hours) the subjects he’ll be discussing at Creativity CON 2012.

Erich will be addressing (this is my paraphrase) how to have “committees for art” instead of “art by committee.” In a creative community, like the one that Lancaster both is and aspires to be, artists and other creatives collaborate. We collaborate both because it is necessary and because it is good. But one thing collaboration is not is easy. How do we keep “collaboration” from becoming synonymous with “conflict”?

As Creative Works of Lancaster moved more and more to a role of producing works of performance art rather than straightforwardly planning and performing them entirely ourselves, the question of collaboration is one that Erich made sure we dealt with intentionally and intelligently. When Creative Works produced an evening of sketch comedy by Happy Time Explosion Show this past April, Erich led our board in balancing our need to maintain the Creative Works brand/reputation without stifling the creative spirit of the sketch comedy troupe. He did so not as an aloof administrator, but rather as a gifted (and often very funny) artist (he’s a playwright) desiring to support and collaborate with other local artists.

I have no reservations about wholeheartedly encouraging anyone reading this to attend Creativity CON 2012. It will be an inspiring and memorable day for you.

Get all the information and buy your advance ticket at