In the coming months, I would like to begin spying on towns that are a lot like Lancaster.

I want to monitor them remotely over the Web, to get a sense of what is going on in those cities that might inspire us here in Lancaster, or cause us to think differently about ourselves.

What cities do you consider to be comparable to Lacaster? Ideal cities will be of similar size, age, and climate.

I think there are a fair number of people in Lancaster with a sense of what is going on in Philadelphia, New York, and even more distant cultural centers like Los Angeles and Austin. Those people are thinking about how some of the things that are done in those cities might be done here.

I would like to contribute to the conversation by looking at what is going on in less well-known cities that are more similar to ours. Any suggestions of towns to use as that sort of benchmark?

12 thoughts on “What Cities Are Comparable to Lancaster?

  1. Lincoln, ne….it’s even in Lancaster couty. Probably not as old, but the school district is similiar. The university has a larger impact than higher Ed here. It’s artsy.

    1. Thanks for a great suggestion, Shanon. I love the idea of a Nebraska town inside another Lancaster County.

  2. Hmm, benchmarking. I like the question but it would help if you could narrow down the field to some specifics. Even some pet themes to focus on, else the uniqueness of the mix of one community will make comparison to others impossible.

    An opposite question might be asked about how seemingly distinct communities can come to the same something.

    I made a study some years ago of governance in practice in Lancaster”s 16 boroughs. They all start with the PA Municipalities Planning Code but each was distinct as will happen when nonprofessionals take on leadership.

    It sounds like a fun topic to brainstorm on.

    1. I was too quick to reach for the term “benchmark.” I have in mind something loosey-goosey, so I won’t be pursuing anything statistically or scientifically valid. I’ll leave that to research professionals at universities and think tanks.

      Another way at explaining the question (which I admit remains vague in my own mind) is, “In what ways is another community so similar to ours different? Why?” I’ve found that so many differences between Lancaster and other cities is largely explained away by difference in size (Philadelphia), climate (anywhere in the sunbelt), nature of the economy (Harrisburg, full of out-of-towners in politics), age (anywhere out West), or other such obvious factors.

      So what are towns whose differences with Lancaster are really hard to explain away? That’s probably a better way to say what I’m after. And then I want to look for the explanations, whether the differences are good or bad. Please keep contributing to the brainstorm!

  3. I think if you look to the northwest there are some great ideas. Cities like Eugene OR, Portland OR, Seattle 10 years ago, even Salem OR, Bellingham OR is a little smaller but they do some ok things as well. Just some suggestions in my travels.

    1. Bellingham (I’m assuming you mean Washington, since I couldn’t find one in Oregon) looks promising as a comparison. The others are three times the size of Lancaster, or more. Which isn’t to say that don’t have good inspiration to offer – we need more West Coast influence here to keep us from stagnating, I think.

      On a map, Bellingham looks at once isolated and also close to Seattle, similar to the way Lancaster is simultaneously close to Philadelphia and yet isolated here in Central PA. Is that the feeling of the place, or just how it looks from a satellite view?

  4. Ashville NC is similar to Lancaster, the city itself has about 10,000 more residents then we do, but it is a small city founded in the 1780’s and has recently been recognized as an arts destination. As with Lancaster, Ashville is considered quite liberal politically in a generally conservative State. I would also like to recommend Portland Maine, a city that is also larger by about 10,000 residents.

    I’m looking forward to your insights.

    1. I love the idea of Asheville. I periodically hear great things about that place. I never would have thought of Portland, Maine. Have you been there? Does it feel specifically coastal?

      Thanks for great suggestions and weighing in.

  5. Daniel, I think Portland, ME and Asheville, NC are two good ones. I’ve never been to Asheville, but they are pretty widely known as an arts destination. I’ve been to Portland, ME and it’s a great small city with a lot of similarities to Lancaster. It’s got a compact, walk able downtown and a major city (Boston) close by. Of course, Portland has the advantage of being a coastal city which provides an entirely different dimension to a city.

    Nice idea, by the way!

    1. You know the city really well, so I appreciate your seconding those two suggestions. Let’s see how this plays out!

  6. Really like this idea Daniel, would be interested in your perspective on the outcomes.

    Used to live in Maine, Portland would be a great comparison as Patrick suggested. What metropolitan areas in the south & midwest might be good? Is Nashville as big as or bigger than our area? What about the St. Louis or Kansas City areas?

    1. Portland, ME is turning out to be a hot suggestion! Thanks.

      Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas City are six to twelve times larger than Lancaster city, so for my purposes they’re out. But, are there cities that are 1.5 hours away from them by car, as we are from Philadelphia? Far enough away to be outside their suburbs but close enough to be influenced by them?

Comments are now closed.