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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Lancaster Developing Reputation

The heart of downtown Lancaster was one of the sleepiest parts of the High Desert city for much of the last decade. But over the past three years, developer Scott Ehrlich and his Woodland Hills InSite Development have transformed the area around Lancaster Boulevard with new housing, artist lofts, an art museum, a movie theater, restaurants and shops. City Hall was so grateful it named a downtown street in Erlich’s honor. Now it’s Lancaster’s turn to get some recognition. The developments were based on a Downtown Specific Plan the city passed in 2008 to promote jobs and housing in its urban core. The city also spent $10 million on a streetscaping project and made other aesthetic improvements from Sierra Highway to 10th Street West. In November, the city received a Smart Growth Achievement Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA recognized how the downtown project sparked “new life” in the community and how the city worked with business and property owners to make it a success. “The city transformed its regulatory system and established flexible development codes, clear rules and an accelerated downtown permitting and construction schedule,” the agency noted in its citation. Lancaster, which applied for the award, was up against the likes of Buffalo, N.Y., and Atlanta for the Overall Excellence in Smart Growth Award, said Vice Mayor Marvin Crist, who went to Washington, D.C. in December to accept the trophy. “We were seen as the best of the best,” Crist said. “It made you proud to be from the city of Lancaster.” Erlich was unavailable for comment but Crist said the importance of the developer could not be overstated. “That is one of the keys to downtown,” Crist said. “Lancaster did not look for government to do it all. We got a private investor to come in and that was a good approach.” –Mark R. Madler

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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