The Lancaster Recreation Commission is moving ahead with its project to acquire Price Elementary School and convert it into a community center, Executive Director Heather Dighe told City Council on Monday.
The initiative is one of the most exciting in the Rec’s history, Dighe told council members. First disclosed this spring, it involves the Lancaster Rec and the School District of Lancaster exchanging their properties, which sit adjacent to each other along Fairview Avenue in southwest Lancaster.
SDL would donate Price Elementary School, a 60,000 square foot building at 615 Fairview Ave., to the Rec by way of the Rec’s affiliated foundation. In exchange, SDL would take over 525 Fairview Ave., location of the existing Lancaster Rec Center. It would tear down the building and build a new elementary school.
The Rec does not plan to tear down the Price Elementary building: Rather, it plans to remodel it, Dighe said, estimating the cost at $6 million to $10 million (down from an estimate of $12 million in the spring). She enthusiastically listed the resources that would be offered at the resulting multipurpose community facility: A senior center, a health clinic, childcare, a STEM lab, a studio for yoga and dance classes and more.
The expansion of childcare is especially important, she said, noting it is one of the priorities in the city’s recently passed comprehensive plan. The Rec anticipates serving around 700 children annually, counting early childhood education, afterschool programs and summer camps, she said.
The Rec building sits at the southwest corner of Brandon Park, a single contiguous 7.2-acre property owned by Lancaster city government. Dighe said SDL is wrapping up a feasibility study that looks at siting the new Price Elementary School away from Fairview Avenue, with ingress and egress out to Hazel Street on the property’s north side.
That will go to the school board soon for review and approval, and then to City Council, which has jurisdiction over city property. The city, school district and Rec would then finalize the various agreements involved.
The Rec anticipates the exchange of the two sites happening around next June, Dighe said.
Between now and then, the Rec will develop its renovation plans, she said, which hopefully will allow construction to start shortly after the handoff. If so, the Rec would be able to transfer its administrative offices to the Price building in early 2025 and the majority of its operations by that summer.
Dighe was at City Council on Monday to seek approval for the Rec’s $1 million application to Pennsylvania’s Local Share Account grant program. City Council is scheduled to vote on that request and eight others next week.
In April, City Council awarded Lancaster Rec $750,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for the Price conversion project, part of $5 million in ARPA awarded for “community facilities.”
Asked about SDL’s plans regarding Price Elementary and the Rec’s 525 Fairview Ave. property, spokesman Adam Aurand said the district did not have an update to offer beyond what has been publicly disclosed already.
Price is part of the fourth and final phase of SDL’s master facilities plan, one of six schools slated for either renovation or new construction. It and Burrowes Elementary School are both to be rebuilt from scratch.
As of January, the new Price Elementary School was forecast to open in Summer 2025, at an estimated cost of $32.5 million, part of a total Phase 4 budget of $198.5 million.