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Lancaster County Convention Center eyes renovation project to reuse Vine Street lobby

The Lancaster County Convention Center wants to reconfigure its footprint to open 12,000 square feet for more events, its executive director said.

As part of the project, the convention center authority plans to move its offices to the Lydia Hamilton Smith House at 21-23 E. Vine St. in Lancaster city and demolish its current office at the south end of the convention center, convention center authority executive director Kevin Molloy said. The Lydia Hamilton Smith house has been vacant since 2007. 

Smith was the long-time confidante of abolitionist and Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and one of only a handful of successful African American businesswomen in Lancaster in the latter part of the 19th century. The authority’s offices would move to the site of two former boarding houses rented by Smith. The site is on the southeastern side of the convention center at the corner of East Vine and South Christian streets. It is a different site than the planned Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy at 45 S. Queen St., which is located on the southwestern side of the convention center.

“We’re going to make the Commons on Vine lobby into a 12,000-square-foot event space, which will allow us to attract more events and provide a greater economic impact to our community,” Molloy said. “And we’re very excited about doing that.”

Molloy said the project is in preliminary stages, having just tasked an architect with making conceptual drawings, with a goal of completing the project in the fourth quarter of 2025.After the authority moves to 21 -23 East Vine St. several non-load bearing walls at the convention center would be removed. The authority recently engaged Hamel Associates Architects to develop initial drawings for the reconfiguration of Commons on Vine. Molloy said estimating construction costs are impossible to accurately calculate without drawings but that the authority hopes the project at Commons on Vine will not exceed $3 million. 

“This is a big deal in many ways,” Molloy said. “First of all, we can jump our economic impact to our community by adding a 12,000-square-foot event space, no doubt about it. So then the next question is how do we develop it so it can have the demand that provides more people to come to our community, open their wallets and spend money. That’s really our goal.”

The project provides better use of the convention center space. 

Molloy said when the convention center was originally envisioned by the architects back in 2007, the Commons on Vine lobby was supposed to be the registration area. 

“We found our clientele likes their registration area with a visual line of sight to Freedom Hall’s entrance,” Molloy said, “therefore, underutilizing Commons on Vine. Therefore, we have to reprogram it, which is what we’re trying to do.”

The 90,000 square-foot convention center, which opened in 2009, had its best year last year with nearly 250,000 attendees using its main hall. That’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t include smaller gatherings.

By: LISA SCHEID | Business Trends Reporter, LNP.

Published Wed Jun 19, 2024 5:30 AM EDT

Lancaster County Convention Center eyes renovation project to reuse Vine Street lobby | Local Business |

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