A downtown Lancaster public art project that has been long in the works is about to become a reality.
The Lancaster Parking Authority’s four-member board voted on Thursday to approve the artwork design for the facade of the Christian Street car park at Ewell Plaza.
The design by Miami-based R&R Studios was a public pick in September 2021. Titled “The New Lancaster Rainbow,” it received the most votes out of three designs.
“Now we need to assemble a team to start the next phase of engineering and construction,” said executive director Larry Cohen.
The road to the final design was not without controversy.
The city’s historic commission strongly opposed the initial design in 2019, ultimately recommending that Lancaster City Council reject it. When the city council approved the art project, it set several conditions that the artists had to meet, including greater public participation.
In 2019, a group consisting of artists, an architect, and a former mayor of Lancaster sued the city over the artists’ initial design. In a statutory appeal filed in Lancaster’s Court of Common Pleas, the group argued that the city council had committed “an abuse of discretion” in granting a certificate of suitability to the project. The appeal was dismissed.
Public art is only one component of the Ewell Plaza project. Estimated to cost between $33 million and $34 million, the project includes the 325-seat Christian Street Garage, the Lancaster Public Library and two storefronts. Construction is expected to open on March 1.
The $600,000 cost of the artistic facade, which includes $78,000 for design fees, is rolled into the total cost of the garage project, according to Cohen.
Cohen remains cautiously optimistic about keeping the art facade within budget given rising building material prices.
“Final pricing will be given in the coming months after the project has been tendered,” Cohen said.
Cohen also said he expects the public art project to be completed in the fall of 2022.
Ewell Plaza was officially renamed in August 2019 in honor of McCaskey High School graduate and gold medal-winning Olympic sprinter Barney Ewell. The site, in the 100 block of North Queen Street, was formerly known as Lancaster Square.