An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Mosaic high-rise to break ground this year, Willow Valley Communities says

A rendering shows the Mosaic building rising above the Lancaster skyline. Note Southern Market Center to the south and the Lancaster County Convention Center to the east. (Source; Willow Valley Communities)

Willow Valley Communities will start work on Mosaic, its downtown Lancaster high rise, later this year, a company representative said this week.

“We will break ground in 2024,” Chief Marketing Officer Brian Rutter told the audience Wednesday at the Lancaster City Alliance’s monthly Merchant Meeting at the Ware Center.

Demolition of former Lancaster Newspapers production building on the site and construction of the 20-story, 480,000-square-foot Mosaic building will take an estimated 30 months to 36 months, he said, putting its opening date sometime in 2027.

Willow Valley Mosaic. (Source: Willow Valley Communities)

About the project

Sitting at the northwest corner of Vine and Queen streets, Mosaic is slated to have 146 apartments for ages 55 and up. It will be Lancaster County’s tallest building at 244 feet, beating the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square by 34 feet.

Initially envisioned before the pandemic, its construction schedule has been pushed back due to post-pandemic economic uncertainty, inflation and supply chain issues. Two years ago, Willow Valley Communities said construction might begin in late 2022 or early 2023.

In the summer of 2022, it secured approval from the city’s Planning Commission, subject to a half-dozen conditions, such as entering into a developer’s agreement and submitting a financial guarantee. Willow Valley Communities has until the end of the year to fulfill those conditions, which must happen before the approval is finalized and the plan recorded, city Chief Planner Douglas Smith said.

The city has not yet received applications for any construction permits for the project, he said.

In late 2020, LNP estimated the cost of Mosaic at $90 million, based on other high-rise projects. Since then, despite a recent ebb, the cost of construction inputs has increased more than 30%, according to the Associated Builders & Contractors’ analysis of federal data, suggesting that a comparable estimate today might end up closer to $120 million.

Willow Valley does not disclose project budgets, Rutter said.

Area impact

Mosaic is part of a sequence of revitalization efforts centered on the intersection just south of Penn Square. Between Mosaic and its neighbors, the corner is poised to become a vibrant hotspot, Rutter said.

To the south is Southern Market Center, which Willow Valley Communities revitalized and reopened in 2022 as a food hub in partnership with Lancaster Equity. To the east, under the eaves of the Lancaster County Convention Center, LancasterHistory is building the Stevens-Smith Center for History and Democracy. (Smith is Lydia Hamilton Smith, Stevens’ housekeeper and confidant.)

The remaining piece of the puzzle is the vacant former Swan Hotel, which sits on the southeast corner across the intersection from the Mosaic site. Its owner, the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority, is seeking a developer to repurpose it as a venue complementing the convention center itself, such as a restaurant or boutique hotel.

A rendering of Mosaic’s first-floor restaurant patio. (Source: Willow Valley Communities)

Rutter said Willow Valley Communities is actively marketing Mosaic to potential residents. It is designed for people who want a walkable, “culturally rich” urban experience, he said, and they will be an active part of the Lancaster community. In addition, it will feature restaurants and outdoor areas that are open to the general public, including a rooftop lounge.

“This is something we want the community to enjoy,” he said.

Mosaic is 100% independent living. If and when residents need a higher level of care, Rutter said, they will move to Willow Valley Communities’ main campuses in Willow Street.

The Inkwell, Mosaic’s rooftop bar. (Source: Willow Valley Communities)

Parking will be provided next door at the Steinman Park Garage, with access via a sheltered walkway.

Although Willow Valley Communities is a tax-exempt nonprofit, it voluntarily chooses to pay its city and school real estate taxes in full. For the School District of Lancaster, Rutter said, that means Mosaic will provide a significant tax boost without increasing enrollment by a single student.

A study commissioned by Willow Valley Communities in 2021 estimated Mosaic would add $12.1 million a year to Lancaster’s economy. Adding in the rest of the senior living center’s operations, including expansion efforts under way at its Lakes Campus, brings the total annual impact in the county to more than $170 million.