Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Projects put Elizabethtown on road to improvement Six big undertakings boost businesses and residents
BY P.J. REILLY, Staff Writer
When Folklore Coffee & Company first opened its doors on Elizabethtown's Center Square, customers offered words of encouragement -- tinged with sour expectations.
"A lot of them would say, 'We hope you make it,''' owner Ryan Bracken recalls. "They had seen so many businesses come and go, I think they figured we would just be another one.''
But Folklore moved in to 1 N. Market St. in 2009, just as Center Square was undergoing a transformation.
Fueled by $250,000 in federal funds, the borough in 2010 gave the square an overhaul to make it more friendly to pedestrians.
Brick walls on each corner were lowered to increase visibility, tables and chairs were installed on top of new brick pavers, lighting was put in and flowers were planted.
"There's definitely a different feeling around here now,'' said Bracken, whose business is not only still open, but thriving.
"Walking downtown was sporadic at first, but now that people are used to the way things are here, there's a lot of foot traffic.''
The Center Square project is just one of six improvement efforts Elizabethtown has launched since 2010, using public funds from county, state and federal sources.
When totaled, those funds amount to about $14.3 million.
"The quality of life these projects are adding to Elizabethtown is something we are extremely proud of,'' Mayor Chuck Mummert said. "They're neighboring $15 million, and there's no way the borough could have paid for them ourselves without putting a tremendous burden on our taxpayers.
"I'm a resident, and I wouldn't want that burden.''
Elizabethtown was required to pitch in some of its own money for the various projects, but it was minimal, according to Mummert.
"Less than 1 percent," he said. "Mostly, we picked up some soft costs for engineering and things like that."
The projects undertaken by the borough addressed issues raised in Elizabethtown's downtown master plan, which was unveiled in 2005, according to borough Manager Roni Ryan.
"We identified a number of infrastructure projects that we then set about accomplishing," she said.
"Going forward, we'll be looking to work with downtown property owners to determine what other infrastructure improvements might be needed."
Apart from the Center Square improvements, following is a list of the projects Elizabethtown has launched since 2010 using public funds:
n West Bainbridge Street bridge -- $3.1 million in federal funds to build the bridge over Conoy Creek that now carries West Bainbridge Street around the Mars Snackfood US plant.
According to Mummert, the rerouting of West Bainbridge was a multifaceted project that eliminated a difficult turn for trucks at Market and Union streets and allowed Mars to expand its plant.
"(Mars officials) never said it, but if we hadn't rerouted that road, I think we'd be looking at a lot of empty buildings at the plant property," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to see this was a win,win, win.
"We definitely want the Mars plant here in town."
n Millstone Plaza -- $120,000 in county funds to establish a "pocket park" at West Bainbridge and Market streets, which features two millstones that once were used in a former mill that operated on the site.
The stones were unearthed when the borough demolished a building to make way for the intersection and plaza.
The county funds also were used to make improvements to the intersection, which now includes left-turn lanes on Market Street.
n Pedestrian and bicycle pathway -- $1.3 million in county, state and federal funds to build a walking and biking path of about 1½ miles from the train station to Elizabethtown Area High School.
A portion of the trail is finished, from Market Street through the borough Community Center fields to Conoy Creek.
Work is underway to build a bridge over the creek and connect the path to the train station.
And the final phase from Market Street to the high school is set to go in the near future.
"Realtors have told us that people like living in areas that have low taxes and good schools, but they also like being near walking and biking trails," Mummert said. "This path will enhance the value of our community."
n Train station rehabilitation -- $9.3 million in federal funds to refurbish the 94-year-old station house that had been shuttered for 30 years, build a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant platform, featuring twin glass-and-marble elevators, and make other improvements.
Work is underway to pave an overflow parking lot, where the Railway Express Agency station stood until earlier this week.
n Community Park improvements -- $250,000 in state funds to replace playground equipment, build new volleyball courts, improve the amphitheater and enhance other amenities. That project is expected to begin this year, according to Ryan.
"The quality of life these projects are adding to Elizabethtown is something we are extremely proud of.''