Standing amid workers installing tile and trim and painting the new lobby, real estate developer John Meeder declared: "The experience starts here."
The experience is one of a bright, open lobby; clean, well appointed rooms; and a well-managed facility.
It will be the experience of The Hotel Lancaster, promised Meeder.
"The Brunswick is history. It is no longer the name of this hotel," he said. "Sorry historians, but there is too much baggage."
The street-level lobby had long been recommended by urban planners, but by moving it to the East Chestnut Street side of the building, Meeder and his partners also are getting a new address.
Along with the name change, it allows him to distance the hotel from the recent history of the site and start anew.
The Brunswick, at 151 N. Queen St., had been beset with problems in recent years.
City officials and the county district attorney had urged the court to declare the hotel a nuisance last year.
They contended drug use, brawls and underage drinking were occurring there.
Meeder, president of Meeder Development and Meedcor Realty, along with still-unidentified partners took over the property two months ago.
They are leasing it with plans to soon purchase the building.
They plan to open the week of Oct. 21 with as many as 66 rooms on floors 6 through 9.
The rooms will rent for between $129 and $139 nightly, less than the nearly $200 advertised rate of the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square hotel two blocks away.
Meeder said he is not pushing for a top-tier hotel.
"We want people to say it was a nice, clean, well-run facility," he said of the goal.
Despite its reputation, Meeder said the previous operators had made significant investments in the former Brunswick.
Recently installed sprinkler and alarm systems are high-quality. The heating and air conditioners in the individual rooms are almost new.
Still, he said, the new operators have done extensive work on the plumbing system and on the elevators.
Drapes, linens, tile and appliances in the guest rooms are new.
Although he did not have a total cost for the improvements, Meeder said $250,000 has been invested in the new lobby alone.
"We have made tremendous strides here," Meeder said Thursday, pointing out the power washing of the lower level and the removal of boards and paper from windows.
Gutters have been cleared and water-damaged drywall and flooring below have been removed.
The annex section of the building, along Lancaster Square, which has housed a movie theater and nightclub, remains officially condemned.
Yet, the extensive mold growth that prompted the closure has all been removed, he said.
Meeder is quick to separate that portion of the structure from the hotel.
Eventually, he hopes to redevelop that area, including opening the block to North Christian Street behind the existing building.
But that will have to wait until at least 2015.
His first priority remains opening the initial parts of the hotel, after which he will focus on the remainder of the 223-room hotel.
With the opening, the elevators will lock out access to the building's second through fifth floors, Meeder said.
A heavy drape will be used to block access to the stationary escalators that once carried visitors to the second-floor lobby, restaurant and meeting rooms.
A third-floor pool will be reopened "at some point," he said.
Before that will come renovations to the street-level space.
Plans call for a long-vacant area at North Queen and East Chestnut streets to become a local restaurant, Meeder said.
"I'm not talking mashed potatoes and gravy. I'm talking about the new local, healthy local food," where countians will want to eat, he said.
Hopefully, it will be open in the first quarter of next year.
"We want to have a really vibrant streetfront. This will be a retail space before long," he said, pointing to an area adjacent to the restaurant space.
To get the hotel going, Meeder said he is working with two partners in the hospitality industry and hiring about 10 staff members.
That staffing will quickly double, then triple within months of opening, he predicted.
They also have hired a consultant to help them get started.
The Hotel Lancaster website - thehotellancaster.com - went live a few days ago and information on the hotel is available on travel booking sites, such as Expedia, he said.
In fact, about 15 rooms already have been booked, said Meeder.
"Everybody needs to be patient," he said of the gradual revitalization, "because how long did it take to make this mess? How long will it take to undo it? We've got to start small."
The Hotel Lancaster stands on a site that has been the location of a lodging facility since the long-gone Hofnagle Hotel opened there in 1776.
The original Hotel Brunswick, a statuesque landmark, operated there from 1914 to 1964.
It was razed as part of the "clear cutting" of the 100 block of North Queen Street to make way for the current Lancaster Square.
The current building opened in 1970 as a Hilton Inn.
But in 1976, the property left the Hilton chain and was renamed the Hotel Brunswick.