From The Editors
From A Tale of Two Hotels in the development of Erie's Bayfront to the future of film in The Gem City, welcome to the February 5 edition of The Erie Reader.
It'd be easy to start drawing battle lines, it'd be easy to start picking sides, and it'd be easy to paint this story as "The Battle for Erie's Bayfront."
But what if it isn't a fight? What if this doesn't have to be a this or that moment? And what if this could really be Erie's renaissance moment when we see the landscape of Erie take shape for decades to come?
By now, you've heard the developing story: The Erie County Convention Center Authority wants to secure a bond from the county to erect a publically-funded hotel adjacent to the Bayfront Convention Center. And by now, you've seen Scott Enterprises' plan for a development east of State Street known as Harbor Place.
What this has quickly become is a private versus public-funding debate. But it's more complicated than that, an evolving issue with many moving parts.
For one, there's the grant Erie's secured from the state — a whopping $25 million over five years that would go to the development of the ECCCA's hotel, which in turn would propel forward the development of the former GAF site. Can those funds be re-appropriated for another use? That remains unclear.
And how many hotels are too many? The Scotts are arguing that a publically-funded hotel would threaten the likelihood of the success of their development — which includes a hotel, and which is still slated to move forward despite Erie missing out on CRIZ funds. But as Jay Stevens wrote in our last issue, Erie's may be getting a second chance at those funds soon.
And those funds help everyone — not just some — as the land designated stretches roughly from Sunburst Electronics to the pumping station, which includes not only the Scott project but the former GAF site.
Rebecca Styn explores this story more fully in "The Tale of Two Hotels," which you'll find in this issue. It is a complicated story, and Rebecca does a commendable job distilling the story to date.
Why does she tell it? Because decisions will be made soon that will affect Erie for generations to come. And perhaps this doesn't have to be a this or that tale of two hotels. Perhaps it can be a story of two different visions for Erie being seen to fruition at the same time through cooperation and collaboration. Because if ever Erie deserved more than a puncher's chance at putting the "gem" clearly and boldly in "Gem City," it's now, the very moment that change and growth seem to be more than whispers in the air — they seem palpable.
The energy for change, for growth, for development is abuzz in Erie. Take John C. Lyons as an example. Lyons, a local filmmaker who we featured last year in our 40 Under 40 issue, is the visionary behind the Film Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania, where he currently serves as Executive Director.
Not only is Lyons curating various film series, he's bringing filmmakers to Erie. And not only is he bringing filmmakers to Erie, he's starting initiatives like The Greater Erie Film Office to help bring the filmmaking industry to Erie. Need a location that features all four season? We have that. Need a massive body of water? We have that, too. Need the backdrop of industrial boom and bust? Yep, we've got that, too.
In just three short years, the Film Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania has transformed from a stale nonprofit sitting on a shelf collecting dust to an organization that's fostered both film appreciation and film development in our region. Ben Speggen sat down with John C. Lyons to discuss this and what it means for Erie.
Undeniably, things are happening here. People are working to make Erie a film capital of Pennsylvania, and people are working to develop the last bits of land dotting our Bayfront. What's needed now more than ever is the energy of the entire community to ensure that the foundation that's being laid now leads to a structurally strong and stable city for decades to come.
That's why we're asking you to remember two dates: Tuesday, Feb. 11 and Wednesday, Feb. 12.
The first is the second reading of the ECCCA's ordinance proposal to County Council; that meeting is free and open to the public. The second is the kickoff for the next season of the Film Society's series FILM at the Erie Art Museum. It costs only $5 and proceeds go to ensure that Erie continues to get cooler each time an independent film is screened in our city.
As proponents of both sound discussion that leads to smart development and the cultivation of the arts scene in The Gem City, we'll see you there.