LANCASTER, Pa. — It’s a project more than five years in the making.
“This is the center of the city right here," said Larry Cohen, executive director of the Lancaster Parking Authority. "[Ewell Plaza] laid vacant for 20, 30 years. There was no movement whatsoever.”
That is, until now.
The City of Lancaster and the Lancaster Parking Authority are nearing the completion of the revitalization of Ewell Plaza on North Queen Street.
The construction of the Christian Street Parking Garage and revitalization of Ewell Plaza is the culmination of a five-year, $34 million effort between the City and the Parking Authority to expand the revitalization of the Queen Street block that includes tens of millions of dollars in private investment at 101 N. Queen St. on one end and the Holiday Inn Lancaster on the other.
The transformation was made possible by funding through the CRIZ, a state revitalization program funded by local businesses, and the local CRIZ board.
Another piece of the puzzle was announced Monday morning, as the Parking Authority revealed “Busy Bodies Play Cafe” as the tenant set to fill its other indoor retail space.
“We decided we were going to lease this out to hopefully a business that was a good compliment to what was happening in the plaza but also something that would be an enhancement to the community as well," said Cohen. "And we feel like we accomplished that today."
Busy Bodies Play Cafe is an indoor open play space for children ages 0-6 and their caregivers that provides a place where children and adults will enjoy time together.
Parents and caregivers can supervise their children while enjoying refreshments and a comfortable seating area with other adults. Children will enjoy private birthday parties with a variety of packages and themes to choose from.
The business’s owners, Denise and Roy Evans, have decades of early childhood education experience.
They already operate a Busy Bodies location at the Rockvale Outlets in East Lampeter Township, making Ewell Plaza their second location in the Lancaster area.
The owners say the indoor play space will fill a void in the city.
“A lot of the spaces in this area are not geared toward infants and toddlers so we’re hoping to get more of that population into the community so they can get exposure to the community they live in," said Denise Evans.
The Parking Authority’s director says that’s fitting, as the Ewell Plaza project, which includes the opening of the new Lancaster Public Library, is all about creating a family environment downtown.
“As the weather warms, there will be many events happening in the plaza, activity in the library, and by early fall this year there will be activity in Busy Bodies' retail space here," added Cohen.
The news comes as the city and county have recently dealt with vagrancy and trash issues just across North Queen Street at Binns Park.
“There’s a concerted effort by the city, the county and we have a voice in that, as far as making sure we keep the Ewell Plaza and Binns Park clean, safe and receptive to anyone who wants to use either of the parks," explained Cohen.
A complete renovation of Binns Park is set to start next month.
Over in Ewell Plaza, the new library is expected to open its doors at the end of May.
Busy Bodies Play Cafe is expected to have its grand opening in the fall.
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