Lancaster city is formally seeking proposals for the vacant Bulova building and adjacent city-owned property in hopes of connecting a stagnant part of downtown.

The city intends to use eminent domain to take the Bulova building at North Queen and East Orange streets. That means the city would pay fair market value for the property and the building's lien holders would then be paid.

The city issued requests for proposals on Friday. 

Randy Patterson, the city's economic development and neighborhood revitalization director, said the property is in a critical location downtown.

Successfully redeveloping the site would connect the commercial corridor of North Queen Street from King Street to the 200 and 300 block of North Queen, 

"Right now, that block kind of sits as an island," Patterson said, he said, adding the economic development plan being put together by the Lancaster City Alliance identifies it as a critically important investment site for the city. The plan is expected to be released next month.

In the development vision part of the request, the city and the redevelopment authority said plans must be complementary to the west side of the block, which includes Binns Park, county offices and Wells Fargo.

"The preferred redevelopment of the east side of Lancaster Square would include mixed-use development to include additional retail or restaurant uses built to North Queen Street; retail or other active pedestrian uses in the first floor of the Bulova Building; entertainment uses, professional office space and residential development as for-sale or market rate apartments," the request said.

Patterson said the city doesn't want to be too prescriptive, but it does want to see certain things. Besides what's listed above, the city would like to see Marion Street reopened from North Christian Street to North Queen as either a street or pedestrian walkway. And, he said, the city doesn't have enough class-A office space, that is, space in a new building with more modern amenities.

"For us, it's saying that's what we want to see there. How that mix gets set up is all about the economic feasibility of the project," he said Friday.

The city also said interested developers should contact owners of the The Hotel Lancaster in the former Brunswick hotel at North Queen and Chestnut streets. The owners, John Meeder and Sam Wilsker, have plans for a $10.4 million entertainment complex just south of the hotel.

Between the Bulova building and the Hotel Lancaster, is city-owned property: the rubber-tiled plaza area and some vacant shops. 

Since the city announced it planned to take the Bulova building, three developers have contacted the city, Patterson said. Bids will be accepted until noon July 17.

There are liens on the property and taking it by eminent domain would assure a clean title for a developer, Patterson has said.

The Bulova building has sat vacant since shortly after Bulova Technologies, which made electronic products for commercial and defense contractors there, abruptly closed in December 2008. 

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