Architects always aim to design and build things in our work, but in our office we know that older buildings always require new users to keep them alive and sustainable for the future. So, there are times when our best service is not to design or build anything, but to connect those in need of a space with the right space in need of a use. We’ve been happy to play such a role recently, to the benefit of two downtown organizations, and to keep another older building in use.
Back in 2013, we conducted an in-depth survey of properties in the West King Street district. (West King Past And Future). In the process, we became aware of Christ Lutheran Church’s need for a tenant or buyer for their largely vacant educational building. A few years later, the Lancaster-Lebanon Literacy Council sought our help with their facility needs. When we learned of their challenge in finding a new space, we were able to “connect the dots” and see a future picture that could potentially benefit all involved. As a non-profit, the Literacy Council couldn’t just rent space anywhere they pleased, and yet it was best for them to be in the central downtown to meet the needs of their language and literacy students. The Church needed to find a new rent-paying tenant to occupy a somewhat left-behind space. We were happy to bring the two groups together.
The Literacy Council is now welcoming students in their new office next to Christ Lutheran Church, having secured a suitable space close to the community they serve. The space suited their need to remain central, while being less costly than other quarters in an increasingly competitive downtown real estate market.
One potential downside to a more prosperous downtown is that many non-profits or small businesses, well-established and serving a vital need, may be forced to move to find less-costly real estate. This location loss can conflict with their mission, and it can also serve to erode the character of the downtown community. Lancaster is fortunate to have such a range of historic buildings – to sustain them, new users, and often new uses as well, are needed. The work of building community and stewarding our built heritage is most often not a grand gesture but that of small steps and regular attention – something we seek to do in our work every day.
Congratulations to the Lancaster-Lebanon Literary Council on their new facility!
To learn more about the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan for Southwest Lancaster, visit southwestlancaster.org