Christian Street Garage - public art

This rendering shows the facade with public art proposed for the Christian Street Garage overlooking Ewell Plaza.

UPDATE (Tuesday, Oct. 22): City Council will not take up the Historical Commission's recommendation this evening regarding the garage and library planned for Ewell Plaza. 

Because two council members can't make it tonight, the issue is being postponed until November, City Hall announced on social media this afternoon. 

As a result, tonight's planned 6 p.m. committee meeting is canceled. The 7:30 regular council meeting will still take place, but legislative action on the library and garage project will be tabled. 

Discussion of it is now scheduled for council's Nov. 4 committee meeting, which would allow a vote at council's regular meeting Nov. 12. 

Previously reported:

The facade proposed for the garage and library planned in Ewell Plaza is "horrendous," Denise Ewell told the Lancaster city Historical Commission Monday.

It looks like "a deterrent," she said, and does not represent the spirit embodied by her father, champion Olympic sprinter Barney Ewell, for whom the plaza was renamed earlier this year.

A few minutes later, with more than two dozen city residents looking on, the commission voted 6-1 to recommend City Council reject the design.

City Council will now take up the matter, on which it has the final say. Council is scheduled to discuss it at a special committee meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and could take a vote at its regular meeting 90 minutes later, at 7:30 p.m.

Both meetings are at City Hall, 120 N. Duke St., and are open to the public. 

Denise Ewell

Denise Ewell

The garage and library would go on the east side of Ewell Plaza in place of an old annex building. The annex is being demolished; construction of the new building is expected to start next year and wrap up in 2021. The $29 million project also includes a one-story retail building. 

Another city board, the Public Art Advisory Board, arranged for Miami-based R&R Studios to develop artwork for the facade. As presented to the commission, it consists of brightly colored vertical tubes, within which large letters would spell out a message. The stair tower would be tinted yellow glass.

But that's just a starting point, and that the concept "is expected to evolve," with community input, city public art manager Jo Davis has said.

That was one reason the commission majority gave for recommending against the design — it isn't final.

The majority also said it doesn't meet the relevant design standards for patterning, materials and architectural detailing.

The commission had tabled the application in September and suggested the design team rethink its application. On Monday, parking authority solicitor Matthew Creme said it would remain as-is and asked for a ruling. 

Commission member John Lefever, the city's building codes chief, cast the dissenting vote. The facade falls within the city's definition of "public art" and the commission was exceeding its jurisdiction in considering it, he contended. He also pointed to the absence of historic streetscape elements on the rest of the block.

But member Steve Funk noted it's attached to the building and requires a building permit.

As such, "we have to review it," he said.

Ewell said Moirajeanne Fitzgerald, former city boutique owner and ArtWalk co-organizer, brought the facade to her attention.

Fitzgerald, for her part, echoed comments she previously made to LNP, sharply criticizing both the design and the lack of outreach to the local arts community to date.

The facade is part of a structure, and letting the public art board take charge of it expands the scope of the public art program in a way that was never intended, city resident Linda Weidman said.

"I don't understand that," she said. "That's unprecedented in this community."

Commission member Eric Berman encouraged the audience, especially Ewell, to "voice your comments" to City Council.