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United Way of Lancaster County


City Council approves agreement setting up Price School / Lancaster Rec land swap

The Lancaster Rec Center, bottom left, and Price Elementary School. (Sources: Provided)

City Council signed off Tuesday on an agreement setting in motion the swap of the adjacent Brandon Park/Lancaster Recreation Center and Price Elementary School properties in southwest Lancaster.

The first property, 525 Fairview Ave., now owned by Lancaster city government, would be transferred to the School District of Lancaster. The second property, 613 Fairview Ave., would be transferred by the School District of Lancaster to the Lancaster Rec Foundation, an affiliate of the Lancaster Recreation Commission. No money would change hands in either case.

In brief

  • 525 Fairview Ave.
    • Site of the Lancaster Rec Center and Brandon Park
    • Current owner: Lancaster city
    • Eventual owner: School District of Lancaster
  • 613 Fairview Ave.
    • Site of Price Elementary School
    • Current owner: School District of Lancaster
    • Eventual owner: Lancaster Rec Foundation

The result will be a “win-win-win,” Community Planning & Economic Development Director Chris Delfs told City Council, yielding positive outcomes for all three stakeholders.

The Lancaster Rec gets a significantly larger building where, after remodeling, it will be able to offer significantly expanded programming. Among other things, it will have enough space to enroll an estimated 500 to 800 additional children in childcare, Executive Director Heather Dighe said.

Next door, SDL gets a larger property with more room to build a new Price Elementary School suitable to its needs.

As for the city, it benefits from the Rec and SDL being better able to serve residents. In addition, the arrangement provides for Brandon Park to remain a public park in perpetuity, and for the city to maintain access to the 525 Fairview Ave.’s extensive stormwater infrastructure.

Brandon Park sits in a bowl-shaped valley below the two buildings. Under it are large drainage beds that keep around 5 million gallons of precipitation a year out of city sewers, serving a key role in the area’s stormwater management strategy.

The property lines of 525 Fairview Ave. (blue) and 615 Fairview Ave. (orange). Click to enlarge. (Source: Lancaster County)

The idea for the swap was disclosed a little over a year ago. The agreement formalizes it and sets out a number of preliminary steps to clear the way.

Under it, the city must arrange for the two properties to be rezoned as “Parks and Open Space,” with provisions allowing for the respective properties to house a school and a community recreational center by right.

SDL must provide an easement agreement to the city for 525 Fairview Ave. that guarantees public access to the park and city access to the site infrastructure. (An easement is a legally enforceable right to use property owned by another entity, subject to whatever terms the easement lays out.)

The agreement envisions the swap taking place by the end of July 2025. If that doesn’t happen, and the project has stalled, any of the three entities can terminate the agreement.

A new Price Elementary School is part of SDL’s master plan, an ambitious program of renovation and new construction costing some $200 million. SDL anticipates having the new Price school completed during the 2026-27 school year, spokesman Adam Aurand said. The estimated cost is $40.7 million, up 25% from a $32.5 million estimate offered a little over a year ago.

The SDL board is scheduled to vote on the agreement on Tuesday, June 18.
Dighe called the plan a “monumental opportunity” for the Lancaster Rec. Besides childcare, it would offer expansive space for a senior center, a health clinic, a STEM lab and exercise studios. The renovation cost is estimated at around $10 million or a little more Dighe said; the city is supporting it with $750,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding.

The Lancaster Rec plans to begin the renovations this fall and hopes to be fully up and running with expanded programming at the former Price building by the start of the 2025-26 school year, Dighe said.

The city, SDL and Rec are all dedicated “to creating an integrated campus that meets the community’s educational, recreational, childcare, park, and open space needs,” SDL Director of Operations Drew Schenk said.

Negotiating the agreement proved to be quite involved, and all parties will need to remain flexible as things move forward, Mayor Danene Sorace said, but it’s worth it for a project this transformational.

“I’m really excited about this project,” she said. “I hope council is as well.”

(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with additional comment from Heather Dighe.)

This site plan by ELA Group Inc. shows an “initial concept” for 525 and 613 Fairview Ave. The footprint of the new Price Elementary School is at bottom left; the adjacent hatched rectangles are playgrounds. Click to enlarge. (Source: City of Lancaster)