A rendering of Ewell Plaza and the Christian Street Garage, showing R&R Studios' "New Lancaster Rainbow" facade concept. (Source: City of Lancaster)
A rendering of Ewell Plaza and the Christian Street Garage, showing R&R Studios' "New Lancaster Rainbow" facade concept. (Source: City of Lancaster)

Officials with Lancaster city and the Lancaster Parking Authority say they have accepted the final "concept design" for the public art on the facade of the Christian Street parking garage overlooking Ewell Plaza.

Developed by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R Studios of Miami, the design is the "New Lancaster Rainbow," one of three variants presented to the public this past August.

The parking authority's board still has to sign off on it. The matter is on the agenda for its regular meeting at 8 a.m. this coming Thursday, Jan. 27, at the authority's offices, 30 W. Orange St., Lancaster, authority Executive Director Larry Cohen said.

Its vote would appear to be more or less a formality, as construction on one of the design components, the bright yellow stair tower, was already well under way Thursday.

Construction continues on the Christian Street Garage on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)
Construction continues on the Christian Street Garage on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

This week, the city posted a review on its website of the lengthy process culminating in the planned design, a sequence of events that stirred considerable controversy.

In 2019, City Council overruled the Historical Commission, which had recommended rejecting R&R's design. City Council conditioned its approval on R&R conducting a multi-step public engagement process.

That process took place after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and culminated in August with Behar's and Marquardt's unveiling of the three options. Meanwhile, City Council's ruling survived a court challenge brought by a group of local citizens.

Following the August presentation, the public was invited to vote on the options on the Engage Lancaster platform. The "New Lancaster Rainbow" easily prevailed, winning 85% of the overall vote, though many commenters maintained it was merely the "least objectionable" of the three.

Garage to open March 1

The Christian Street Garage at Ewell Plaza is scheduled to open March 1, Lancaster Parking Authority Executive Director Larry Cohen said.

Related: Tour the Christian Street Garage project (photos)

The $34 million project includes the 325-space parking garage, two floors of shell space for the Lancaster Public Library and a one-story building abutting the facade of the Holiday Inn Lancaster on the plaza's north side, tentatively programmed as meeting and event space.

Once the garage opens, the library can begin fitting out its space, a project tentatively budgeted at around $8 million. It hopes to move from 125 N. Duke St. in early 2023.

Meanwhile, the city plans to proceed this year with construction and landscaping of Ewell Plaza itself. Those plans include installation of public amenities and a statue of the plaza's namesake, Olympic sprinter Henry "Barney" Ewell.

In its post, the city said R&R's design "has evolved in a number of important ways" including changing the color palette to emphasize a Lancaster-esque brick red, the segmentation of the design into horizontal bands to break up the building's massing, and the decision to dispense with any wording.

"As expressed by the artists, the art is intended to communicate the past and growing diversity in the City of Lancaster, a spirit of freedom and welcome, and a special atmosphere that blends the local and the cosmopolitan," the city wrote.

Moreover, it said, "Adopting a design form that is more modern and stirring at this site joins an international movement in the architecture of public libraries."

Nighttime rendering of Ewell Plaza and the Christian Street Garage. (Source: City of Lancaster)
Nighttime rendering of Ewell Plaza and the Christian Street Garage. (Source: City of Lancaster)
Tim Stuhldreher