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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 01-11-2018, 09:21 PM
 
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How is the homeless population in Lancaster compared to Harrisburg? I think Harrisburg has a lot for a city of its size. I can't walk downtown without at least one person asking if I can spare some change, or seeing homeless people sleeping on benches or hanging out in Strawberry Square (very sad, wish there were more shelters for them and ways to get them back on their feet).
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Old 01-12-2018, 12:57 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
1,915 posts, read 1,100,634 times
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Im not really sure of the severity of homelessness in Lancaster. Harrisburg I will give a Grade C, Lancaster maybe gets a B.

Although it is a problem, it is mostly noticeable because again Harrisburg Central Business District is way larger than a city of comparable size, and therefore you find that it is in a more concentrated area.
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Old 01-13-2018, 05:53 PM
 
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So I walked around downtown Lancaster for the first time today, and I have to say, I really liked it! It had a lot of cute shops and restaurants, and there seemed to be a large millennial presence walking around in the square. It definitely seemed to have the vibrancy that I wish Harrisburg had. I will say though that I did get asked for money by one homeless person, which isn't so different from Harrisburg. Also I don't think that Lancaster has the beautiful skyline view that Harrisburg has, lacking the tall buildings, river, mountains, etc... So it kind of depends on what you want from your city, both are unique in their own ways. Oh and the parking rate in Lancaster was MUCH more reasonable considering its city size and how much there actually is to do there. It kind of reminded me of downtown State College on College Ave and Beaver Ave.
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Old 01-14-2018, 03:32 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
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Originally Posted by SteelGuitar22 View Post
So I walked around downtown Lancaster for the first time today, and I have to say, I really liked it! It had a lot of cute shops and restaurants, and there seemed to be a large millennial presence walking around in the square. It definitely seemed to have the vibrancy that I wish Harrisburg had. I will say though that I did get asked for money by one homeless person, which isn't so different from Harrisburg. Also I don't think that Lancaster has the beautiful skyline view that Harrisburg has, lacking the tall buildings, river, mountains, etc... So it kind of depends on what you want from your city, both are unique in their own ways. Oh and the parking rate in Lancaster was MUCH more reasonable considering its city size and how much there actually is to do there. It kind of reminded me of downtown State College on College Ave and Beaver Ave.

Yea downtown Lancaster is great, I love it. I HIGHLY encourage you to check out Midtown Harrisburg on a Saturday afternoon. I commented on the State College comparison on places to check out there. You will like it. Also do not be taunted by Harrisburg crime in downtown. It is perfectly safe. Random violent crime is not a thing.

And homelessness exist all around America. Even in rural communities. Many people sleep in their cars in Wal Mart parking lots for example all over America. With that it is a problem you cannot ignore, but in any more urban setting that is walkable you will find it more noticeable. Overall Harrisburg and Lancaster have manageable homeless problems that are quite small in scale. If you want to see major homeless problems go to a place like Los Angeles or Seattle. It is extremely bad there.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:27 AM
 
Location: Over-the-Rhine, Ohio
548 posts, read 720,275 times
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I find comparisons between Harrisburg and Lancaster to be incredibly interesting. The two cities are almost identical in population with similar population growth rates. The Harrisburg MSA is slightly larger with 549,000 people compared to Lancaster's 538,000, but at a national level that difference is negligible putting the regions right next to each other on lists.

Despite the regions' similarities, the land use and cultural distinctions could not be more different. (It kind of reminds me of the difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul.) Harrisburg functions very much like a big city, with a focus on politics and state government. Lancaster functions very much like a large town with a focus on trade and agriculture. Both cities actually have VERY similar amenities in their central business districts, but they're arranged differently. Lancaster allows you to get lost wandering between shops and restaurants on smaller side streets where Harrisburg has large, imposing state buildings between all of the shops and restaurants...but there's no more or less places to go in either city.
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Old 01-28-2018, 11:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by SteelGuitar22 View Post
So I've often wondered, which city has the better downtown area, Harrisburg or Lancaster? I suppose some things to list would be: nightlife, crime, shopping, entertainment, dining, traffic, scenery, cost of living, homeless population, etc...I'm more familiar with downtown Harrisburg, which unfortunately seems kind of dead on nights and weekends after the state workers rush out (this honestly makes it seem eerie and unsafe). Is downtown Lancaster more lively or just as dead? Thanks!
Lancaster has a much better downtown which is reflected in the real estate prices. Harrisburg has improved over the last decade, but it has a long way to go with its pace of gentrification.
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Old 01-30-2018, 09:15 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
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Since this thread is shaping up like a complete blowout (in favor of Lancaster), let me just add a few points in favor of Harrisburg.

For starters, ProkNo5 hit the nail on the head. The two cities are fairly close geographically and in terms of population and certain other stats, but they look, feel, and operate very differently. On that basis, I think it’s hard to make a fair apples-to-apples comparison between the two.

I’ll admit that Lancaster may have more to offer in terms of shopping and dining, and it may make the better night-out destination. But it also lacks some items that I think give Harrisburg a unique sense of place (and underscore what an underutilized place it is).

One big element is the Susquehanna River. It provides a major geographic anchor to downtown, and its numerous bridges create a wonderful visual montage of cascading arches from various vantage points entering the city.

The river also provides the setting for Harrisburg’s interconnected recreational complex of City Island and Riverfront Park. When I lived in Harrisburg, I’d bike multiple laps along length of Front Street on the trail, out to the island, and back, and it was one of the things I appreciated most about the city.

And finally the Commonwealth’s capitol building puts most other states’ headquarters to shame. I realize that most people out to dine on a Friday night couldn’t care less, but it’s an impressive sight at night when the dome is illuminated and perhaps more impressive to walk though during the day.

So bottom line—I’m not necessarily saying that Downtown Harrisburg is better. Perhaps Downtown Lancaster is the superior place to go out for dinner and browse some shops. But I think it does Harrisburg some very under-appreciated assets, and if the city could harness a sustained wave of reurbanization and redevelopment energy within its boundaries, I think Downtown Harrisburg has much greater potential than its brother to the southeast.

Last edited by briantroutman; 01-30-2018 at 09:29 PM..
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Old 01-31-2018, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by briantroutman View Post
Since this thread is shaping up like a complete blowout (in favor of Lancaster), let me just add a few points in favor of Harrisburg.

For starters, ProkNo5 hit the nail on the head. The two cities are fairly close geographically and in terms of population and certain other stats, but they look, feel, and operate very differently. On that basis, I think it’s hard to make a fair apples-to-apples comparison between the two.

I’ll admit that Lancaster may have more to offer in terms of shopping and dining, and it may make the better night-out destination. But it also lacks some items that I think give Harrisburg a unique sense of place (and underscore what an underutilized place it is).

One big element is the Susquehanna River. It provides a major geographic anchor to downtown, and its numerous bridges create a wonderful visual montage of cascading arches from various vantage points entering the city.

The river also provides the setting for Harrisburg’s interconnected recreational complex of City Island and Riverfront Park. When I lived in Harrisburg, I’d bike multiple laps along length of Front Street on the trail, out to the island, and back, and it was one of the things I appreciated most about the city.

And finally the Commonwealth’s capitol building puts most other states’ headquarters to shame. I realize that most people out to dine on a Friday night couldn’t care less, but it’s an impressive sight at night when the dome is illuminated and perhaps more impressive to walk though during the day.

So bottom line—I’m not necessarily saying that Downtown Harrisburg is better. Perhaps Downtown Lancaster is the superior place to go out for dinner and browse some shops. But I think it does Harrisburg some very under-appreciated assets, and if the city could harness a sustained wave of reurbanization and redevelopment energy within its boundaries, I think Downtown Harrisburg has much greater potential than its brother to the southeast.
I agree with you 500%. Downtown Harrisburg has the potential to be one of the coolest small cities in America IMO. Between its geographic and topographic assets, quite sizable CBD for a city its size, and its relative attractive and historic architecture with walkable neighborhoods. It has true potential and in many ways could outscore Lancaster.

This project will only be adding momentum. The details are to be released in the next month or so. And it is expected to hit the 450' mark, the new tallest in the city, and a notable 100' taller than the current tallest and will certainly continue to add to downtowns vibrancy.

Harrisburg University plans to build city's tallest tower | CPBJ
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Old 02-06-2018, 07:43 PM
 
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Thank you all for your input! I agree, downtown Harrisburg and downtown Lancaster are apples and oranges, for the many reasons listed above. I love both downtowns for different reasons, and visit each accordingly depending on what I want to experience that visit.
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Old 06-18-2018, 07:33 AM
Status: "Living in South Central PA! We made it!" (set 12 days ago)
 
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My wife and I visited both last week and spent the day both in downtown Lancaster and in Harrisburg near City Island.Walked around both places roughly between 2 and 6 in the afternoon.

We liked Harrisburg more. The area we wandered around in (bordered near Paxton, Forster, and 7th street) seemed really nice. We ate at Firehouse Restaurant and really enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere. Everyone we encountered was very friendly as well. I want to say our server said that the area to the north of the restaurant was a bit rough, but I cannot remember for sure. There was a 5k race being run on City Island and it was fun to watch. The course seemed really nice and I would have loved to have run it.

Lancaster is just as oldrowhome describes it, yet we didn't like it as much as Harrisburg. That is surprising to me as I really expected to like Lancaster more. We walked around downtown for about two and a half hours. The city is pretty. We're both "Gen X", so we definitely felt and saw the Millenial/hipster vibe to the city. Lancaster had a lot more in terms of performing arts venues than the part of Harrisburg we visited as well. Lancaster seemed like the more "artsy" of the two places as well. My kids would like that I think.

In both places, we saw lots of people walking around. Didn't see any panhandlers or anything like that anywhere. Also didn't see many police in either town either except near where the race was being run.

Overall, I think I'd choose Harrisburg over Lancaster, but it is not an easy decision at all. We also really need to go back and visit again, and we really want to. I think that my choice is based mostly on the fact that we didn't see the more depressed parts of Harrisburg and the part of H'burg we did visit was pretty nice. We liked the vibe we got from Harrisburg a lot more than the vibe we got from Lancaster, and neither vibe was negative fwiw.

As others have said, it's a city feel vs. a large town feel. That is a pretty apt description, I think.

And yes, parking is cheaper in Lancaster. Learned that the hard way. I've been away from the downtown scene for too long.
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