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Harrisburg area Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry Counties
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Old 01-05-2018, 08:04 PM
 
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Hi All,

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!
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Old 01-08-2018, 06:57 AM
 
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Originally Posted by SteelGuitar22 View Post
Hi All,

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!
They are just so different I find it difficult to compare........

One is large and one is small. One has a state capitol and one is a small town/city. One is adjacent to water, the other is not.

I would have to say Lancaster is lively for its' size. It is small!

Have you visited Lancaster?
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:35 AM
 
Location: Philadelphia
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Good question!

I am from Harrisburg but have been to Downtown Lancaster, OFTEN.

I will say this, downtown Lancaster has come a VERY LONG WAY, and is extremely desirable. It honestly is just so nice, it reminds me of a Hollywood movie set, it is so charming and the historic preservation is just breathtaking.

And the amount of restaurants, boutiques, bars, etc. is just profound! Harrisburg could honestly learn a thing or two from Lancaster.

With that I think downtown Harrisburg has so much potential. 2 differences amongst Harrisburg and Lancaster. Lancaster has Franklin & Marshall within city limits, and it is quite a prestigious school, and this pumps quit a bit of life into its downtown area, and Millersville University is fairly close and fairly large which also adds a youthful vibe.

I have often analyzed that Harrisburg and the region is missing a sizable university in close proximity. Yes there are some small liberal arts schools; Dickinson in Carlisle and Elizabethtown in Etown, but they are not as accessible to Harrisburg, as Lancaster's Universities are.

Also geographically Lancaster is within the same county and not divided by any natural barriers. Harrisburg is divided among Dauphin and Cumberland county and the susquehanna, and unfortunately this really causes a HUGE regional divide. For whatever reason Cumberland County leaders enjoy turning their back on the region and isolating themselves, which just hurts them, Harrisburg and the entire region. There are so many people from the West Shore who mind you have not stepped foot in Harrisburg in years, and have this image in there minds it is some deplorable place. They are scared of the city, which I just laugh at, because Harrisburg is great! I find people who reside in Dauphin County are 10 times more likely to go to Downtown or Midtown Harrisburg recreationally.

With that I think Harrisburg has loads of potential to be just as vibrant as Lancaster if not more. The development of Harrisburg Universities new School of Nursing and School of Pharmacy downtown, and the conversion of luxury apartments downtown will continue to add vibrancy, and thereby attract more amenities to the city, which will over time continue to make Harrisburg a more attractive place. Many people are looking to live in a walkable more urban environment, with is host to amenities and vibrancy. It takes some time to build up that vibrancy but the shift in Harrisburg is definitely taking place. Midtown in the past 5 years even has come a long way! If you visit the Broad St. Market it is so vibrant, even compared to just 5 ears ago. This momentum will only build and extend within Midtown and Downtown! Honestly the biggest hurdle to downtown is the parking situation. The parking rates are extremely high for a city of its size. The state screwed over the city when they took over its assets and leased all the parking to a private company.

But overall check out Lancaster. It is such a lovely place and has a great bar and dinning scene. I know of people who live in Harrisburg and sometimes for a fun weekend they will take Amtrak to Lancaster, and bar hop all day and then take the train back Go check it out, you will not be disappointed

Last edited by rowhomecity; 01-08-2018 at 08:45 AM..
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Old 01-08-2018, 05:04 PM
 
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Thank you guys so far for the responses! I wish I could take the "life", lower crime rate, and parking costs that Lancaster has and make that a part of Harrisburg...maybe as years go by it will eventually happen. Hopefully once the city of Harrisburg gets out of its financial crisis it will be able to lower its parking rates, hire more police officers to walk a beat around downtown, and provide incentives for more businesses to move in, and for businesses to stay open longer. I hate to see so many people rush out of the city every night during the week, it makes it feel so empty. So two things I would like to inquire further on:

1. You say that Lancaster has come a "VERY LONG WAY"...how bad was Lancaster before, and how long ago was that? What did they do to improve their city, and are they plausible for Harrisburg to mimic?

2. Would you say that the city of Harrisburg has improved over the past 4 years with different leadership? I don't mean this to be a question of political opinion, but more one of statistics of improvement. I ask this because over just the course of 1 year of living here I have seen improvements made to make the city look better, draw new business, and gradually lower its crime rate.
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Old 01-08-2018, 05:37 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
1,910 posts, read 1,096,596 times
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Originally Posted by SteelGuitar22 View Post
Thank you guys so far for the responses! I wish I could take the "life", lower crime rate, and parking costs that Lancaster has and make that a part of Harrisburg...maybe as years go by it will eventually happen. Hopefully once the city of Harrisburg gets out of its financial crisis it will be able to lower its parking rates, hire more police officers to walk a beat around downtown, and provide incentives for more businesses to move in, and for businesses to stay open longer. I hate to see so many people rush out of the city every night during the week, it makes it feel so empty. So two things I would like to inquire further on:

1. You say that Lancaster has come a "VERY LONG WAY"...how bad was Lancaster before, and how long ago was that? What did they do to improve their city, and are they plausible for Harrisburg to mimic?

2. Would you say that the city of Harrisburg has improved over the past 4 years with different leadership? I don't mean this to be a question of political opinion, but more one of statistics of improvement. I ask this because over just the course of 1 year of living here I have seen improvements made to make the city look better, draw new business, and gradually lower its crime rate.


Harrisburg 100% is on a forward looking path, the momentum building in the city now is just the beginning. Events in the past year such as the Harrisburg Mural Festival About the Festival would of been unheard of 5 years ago.

All the development in Midtown with the Broad St. Market, The Millworks and HMAC. Also unheard of 5 years ago.

Now we have a coworking space in Midtown, a new small market in downtown, and projects on the books to convert more space to apartments downtown. Hell even BikeShare would of been unheard of! When I found out Harrisburg was getting bike share; I was like, this is AWESOME!

The biggest news of 2017 was the announcement by Harrisburg University to add a School of Pharmacy and School of Nursing to its degree list, and build a new high rise academic building. Most likely 35 - 40 stories and rising over 450ft. These projects continue to add to the vibrancy.

Harrisburg University plans to build city's tallest tower | CPBJ


The biggest problem with Harrisburg is the city has a P. R problem. A great deal of it is perpetuated by the local media. Violent crime in Harrisburg is relatively limited and contained within pockets of areas, and very very little of it is random. Over 95% of violent crime in the city, is inter related. Meaning both parties new each other. But because the city is so small, there is a perception that it is overrun by violence. Which is just NOT TRUE.

Harrisburg needs to take a multi step approach, to market itself better, and this is all coming in time. The city is FINALLY growing again, adding population, and the residents moving into the city are largely, younger and educated and taking leadership roles and investing largely in the community. And this is phase I of any successful redevelopment.



In regards to Lancaster; Lancaster is a more centralized city. Where Harrisburg is a bit more developed amongst a few key neighborhoods, and most investment in Harrisburg has been split between Midtown and Downtown.

Lancaster still has some pockets of violent crime, but it is quite contained, of the 3 Central PA cities, I believe it's is the lowest, followed by Harrisburg and then York is last.

Some major projects that have helped Lancaster move along; Lancaster Central Business District is comprised of much different uses than Harrisburg and is smaller. Overall there is a smaller percentage of workers coming and entering everyday for work. The largest employer in downtown Lancaster is the hospital. With that; there is less dedicated space to commercial uses overall; and less contrast in terms of people moving in and out of the city. Therefore many services and investments come from residents, which in the short term means they are more likely to become successful. Downtown Harrisburg is overwhelming dedicated to commercial use at the moment, and therefore that is why Midtown by many standards is the more vibrant neighborhood.

In most larger cities that have a CBD, you find that after working hours many are not as vibrant, and that the neighborhood spots within the city are the vibrant places. Harrisburg is the same. Now Harrisburg is small, so eventually the vibrancy will spillover from Midtown, as downtown continues to add more residential apartments; etc.



Now within Lancaster downtown core you have the Central Market (which is very beautiful and vibrant). Harrisburg has the Broad St. Market; but this is in the midtown section. But the Central Market is a major draw so adds a great deal of focus on downtown Lancaster. Again this is what I mean in terms of vibrancy. Lancaster is more condensed and its downtown is less dedicated to commercial/office use, so its development tract as increased at a faster pace.

There also was a major project and a new Marriott was built downtown and a Convention Center. The Marriott is equivalent to Harrisburg Hilton, but the Convention Center has more meeting space than the Hilton I believe, so it accommodates a great deal of events; etc.

First Fridays (equivalent to Harrisburg's 3rd in the Burg) started quite a few years ago, and this was a huge draw. And again Franklin & Marshall really gives Lancaster a major push. I am not sure if you are familiar with the school, but it is quite prestigious and located within the city limits, and typically attracts a wealthy family that has disposable income, which all goes back into Lancaster City.


With that; Harrisburg is on the right tract. Pappenfuse is a MILLION times better than our old one term mayor; Linda Thompson who was 100% incompetent. I think Pappenfuse still could improve with some of his long term thinking (for example rather than turn 2nd street 2 way; he should keep it one way; but reduce it to 2 travel lanes and add a bus only lane and a bike lane), but overall positive steps have been made. Even small investments like the LED lights under the Market St. Bridge, and relighting the Walnut St. bridge, are important.

Harrisburg is on the right track. Have you explored Midtown? Where did you move from? I definitely recommend checking out Lancaster. I grew up in Harrisburg, and you would be shocked but that damn river, adds so much beauty, but it surely divides the region. There are so many people from Cumberland County who look down on the city of Harrisburg, it is crazy. (most of them have never even stepped foot inside). People from Dauphin County I largely feel lack the same resentment. And will go into the city MUCH more likely. This hesitation and regional divide is something Lancaster county does not have.
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Old 01-08-2018, 07:09 PM
 
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Wow such great info. We just moved to York from Baltimore and I wish their downtown would improve. It seems that there are like less than 3 restaurants and only 4 blocks long lol being from NY and then living in Balt is a huge jump for us. But a little downtown life would be nice in the spring and summers. All I can do here is shop if I want to stay close to home. Come On York, gotta do better!
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Old 01-08-2018, 08:25 PM
 
Location: Philadelphia
1,910 posts, read 1,096,596 times
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Originally Posted by Thebestteach View Post
Wow such great info. We just moved to York from Baltimore and I wish their downtown would improve. It seems that there are like less than 3 restaurants and only 4 blocks long lol being from NY and then living in Balt is a huge jump for us. But a little downtown life would be nice in the spring and summers. All I can do here is shop if I want to stay close to home. Come On York, gotta do better!

Yea check out downtown Lancaster! It is truly great! Make sure you check out First Friday in Lancaster!

https://visitlancastercity.com/first-friday/

Also come up and Check out 3rd in the Burg in Harrisburg. Here is a link: About


Also I know you are in York, but all 3 cities are only about 30 - 40 minutes from each other so all are accessible. AOL CEO was in Harrisburg over the summer for a major start up incubator tour nationwide, and said Central PA has so much potential if the region starts to collaborate and start to identify as one.


With that here is a great Harrisburg publication to check out some cool regional news/finds/events/happenings. I am sure York and Lancaster also have some similar publications but I find this one to be truly great.

https://theburgnews.com/

Definitely check out the Central Market in Lancaster and the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, and 100% go to The Millworks in Harrisburg and go check out a State Capitol Tour. Your mind will be blown away. As well as the Susquehanna Art Museum and HMAC. There is even more. All 3 cities have so much potential. Lancaster is probably the most vibrant followed by Harrisburg. Enjoy
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Old 01-09-2018, 10:15 PM
 
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Lancaster, by far.
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Old 01-10-2018, 06:25 PM
 
61 posts, read 64,091 times
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Thanks for all of your responses thus far! Getting a lot of good feedback.
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Old 01-10-2018, 06:38 PM
 
Location: Northern Appalachia
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I've visited downtown Lancaster for two weddings and a conference and found it a great city to visit. I would highly recommend it. I think Harrisburg has a long way to go to catch up.
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