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View Full Version : Suprising Scranton & Wilkes-Barre PA
Nov 26, 2005, 11:17 PM
^^ EG, it's a lifelong ambition;)
Nov 29, 2005, 2:52 PM
Almost a wrap! This ( via link to construction cam) has gone from a full block-wide steel structure to what seems to be several seperate buildings by facade fakery in not too long a time. At this rate, folks'll be eatin' popcorn and swillin' cokes while viewing the best (all three of them) films that 2006 will have to offer. heh....
Dec 1, 2005, 2:54 PM
An exemplary plan to save a 400 acre metro Wilkes-Barre farm!
A conservation agreement will breathe new life into historic Hillside Farms
A new corporation has big plans for the 400-acre Hillside Farms in Kingston and Jackson townships.
Rather than succumbing to pressure to sell the property to housing, retail or strip mall developers, the land will be preserved as a working farm and restored to its former late 19th century glory. The Conyngham family has owned the farm for 125 years.
The corporation, a non-profit entity called The Lands at Hillside Farms, today will begin a lease/purchase agreement with the Conyngham family corporation, eventually aiming to become the owners of the historic property. The North Branch Land Trust will assume a conservation easement to the property, taking responsibility for permanently protecting the land from development.
But preserving the land is just the beginning.
The new organization will transform Hillside back into a working farm. Organic crops will be raised, Jersey cows will again graze the sloping pastures and numerous, cavernous barns will be repaired and put back into working order. The public will also benefit from the strong educational focus included in the project.
Dr. Doug Ayers, chairman of the North Branch Land Trust, said the project preserves the environment and local agricultural history.
"Our living history programs will promote education and community activities such as horse-drawn wagon rides, children's tours and activities, farm exhibits, plowing with draft horses and sheep sheering. Special butter, cheese making, spinning and other 19th century farm life classes will be offered to the public," Ayers said. "It's a demonstration of sustainable lifestyles that our community once embraced but has drifted away from."
Proceeds from an agricultural center will go back to the project, and community volunteers will be invited to participate.
The Conyngham family expressed their satisfaction with the Lands at Hillside Farms concept, mainly because the original intent of the farm will be brought back.
"We are delighted to know that a well-known Back Mountain landmark will be conserved and restored to its former glory for the benefit of future generations of the people of Wyoming Valley and surrounds," said George Conyngham, president of the family's corporate board.
The Conyngham family corporation and The Lands at Hillside Farms organization have agreed to a lease/purchase arrangement that begins today. A purchase price for the property is part of the agreement, but is confidential, Wil Conyngham said. Both sides used professional real estate appraisers to help arrive at a price, he said. "We spent some time arm wrestling over the purchase price."
Wil Conyngham said dairy farming will remain the focus of the farm. A rotational grazing plan will be implemented for the planned 100-cow milking herd. Under the plan, no chemicals or hormones will be used on the fields or given to the milking cows. Several large hayfields, including those near Chase Road, Jackson Township, will be used for pasture. The milking herd will consist of Jersey or Brown Swiss.
"It will be closer to the old model of dairy farms 50 years ago," Wil Conyngham said. "These little dairies are hard work, and people treasure them because they give a community an identity.
"It will be preservation, education and a working farm."
He said the restoration work on the buildings will begin in 2006, and the public programs should kick off in 2007.
Immediate plans call for the dairy store to offer an expanded line of organic foods which complement Hillside's milk and ice cream and a café to serve as a community gathering place for breakfast, lunch and fun/educational events for all ages. Farmers Markets will be held seasonally and local farmers will be able to use Hillside Farms as a resource.
Future plans include a bed and breakfast and a fine dining restaurant to be located in "The Cottage," the Conyngham's historic family home.
Andy Check, executive director of The Lands at Hillside Farms, said Hillside could eventually become an attraction similar to Shelburne Farms in Vermont or Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
Rick Koval, a land protection specialist with the land trust, said his organization wanted to preserve the farm for years. "With this location, there is the potential for encroachment from development. This is a nice paradise for wildlife."
And a reconnection to a society that Wil Conyngham said has drifted from its roots.
"We all have ancestors who grew up much closer to the land than we are. We've gotten further away from our natural world and people hunger for that connection," he said.
Frank Conyngham, Wil's brother, agreed that a key component to the plan is it will keep the farm intact. The farm estate was built by his great grandfather who purchased several smaller farms more than a century ago.
"Doing this brings peace and satisfaction. The amount of commitment and financial resources that went into this makes this an almost miraculous effort," Wil Conyngham said. "Hillside will not go the way of most farms in developing areas. The community can become invested in this because it's not going to disappear."
For more information, visit www.thelandsathillsidefarms.org.
Claire Schechter, assistant managing editor, contributed to this story
©The Citizens Voice 2005
Dec 2, 2005, 11:54 PM
Downtown Wilkes-Barre via cam at night in a snowstorm; Offer good only tonight, Fri. Nov. 2 :)
Dec 3, 2005, 12:38 AM
Oh yeah, I hate the snow, but I love the cam view, Thanks dony.
Dec 3, 2005, 8:42 AM
love that cam :D
Dec 4, 2005, 3:28 PM
^^ Me too. The same contractor (Sordoni) is building the new Wilkes-Barre Scranton Int'l. Airport Terminal, garage and tower. They were to have installed a similar 'cam' for the terminal but never did (it's nearly done). I was disappointed but I guess security played a role.
Speaking of the airport, much more money than thought is required to complete the job. Natch......but, $16 M?????
EXCLUSIVE: $16M tower is awaiting taxpayers
By JERRY LYNOTT email@example.com
PITTSTON TWP. – Escalating construction costs at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport ate up funding for a traffic-control tower, said the former airport business manager leaving Luzerne and Lackawanna county taxpayers to pay another $16 million.
Also, county commissioners who make up the airport board have approved the project and a long-term reimbursement plan by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a letter from the airport director.
“The Bi-County Airport Board of Commissioners, after meeting with Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski, has decided to design and construct an Air Traffic Control Tower for the Federal Aviation Administration,” wrote airport director Barry Centini in a Dec. 1 letter sent to county officials.
He further advised them to be prepared to provide the funding next year – $500,000 for the design and $7.5 million for the construction from each county. The tenant for the tower, “the FAA will reimburse the counties for all design and construction costs, including interest, bond costs, etc., over a still to be determined period of time, most likely 20 years,” the letter said.
Centini was out of town and could not be reached for comment Friday.
However, four of the six commissioners on the board said contrary to the wording in the letter no decision has been made and they have no lease agreement with the FAA.
The board’s chairman, Luzerne County Commissioner Todd Vonderheid, said Centini misspoke in the letter.
“We have not made a formal decision,” said vice chairman Lackawanna County Commissioner Robert Cordaro. The letter is apprising the counties of what is anticipated regarding the tower and the counties’ funding obligations.
Two other commissioners also stated they had not voted on the tower.
“I don’t know if a decision was made, I can’t tell you,” said Lackawanna County Commissioner Mike Washo.
Luzerne County Commissioner Steve Urban said he hopes the topic will be put on the agenda for the board’s Dec. 15 meeting.
Nonetheless, he supports construction of the tower. “If (Centini) needs the money for the design, I’d be happy to approve it if this is the only path that we have to follow.”
But had the airport kept terminal construction costs under control it would not have to take this route, countered Wy Gowell, the airport’s former business manager and assistant director.
Gowell, who resigned earlier this year after 16 years with the airport, said the tower was initially included in the construction of the terminal. But, he said, the “escalation of the terminal cost was hidden by taking the tower out of it.”
The latest figure provided by the airport places the terminal and aircraft apron parking area cost at $55,064,007. The apron makes up more than $12 million of the total. Initial estimates for the terminal ranged from $20 million to $30 million.
The airport was to use approximately $4.5 million in federal Airport Improvement Program funds for the tower construction in 2000, recalled Gowell.
In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration was going to pay for tower equipment and “leapfrog” existing equipment into the tower to be built on land east of the main runway. All totaled, he estimated the tower’s cost between $6 million and $8 million.
The airport paid approximately $60,000 for a tower study and budgeted another $400,000 for the design and site selection, he said.
A November 2000 document titled “Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport Capital Improvement Liabilities,” indicated the airport had two tower projects budgeted – $66,141 for an analysis and study to renovate the existing tower, and $405,000 for the design and environmental assessment for a new tower.
Between $25,000 and $30,000 was spent on the tower design before “it just stopped dead,” Gowell said.
Several years ago in a caucus with the board, Centini presented a new pro forma plan on the terminal and the tower was not included. Gowell recollected that at that time the director said “the FAA is doing the tower.”
But that was not the case, Gowell maintained.
“That was always their position, ‘You build it and we’ll lease it,’ ” he said.
Cordaro disputed Gowell’s statement about the cost escalations eliminating the tower from the terminal project. “He’s not even close.”
He and Vonderheid said the counties won’t commit any funds to the tower without a lease commitment by the FAA.
“The only basis we’ll do it is if it’s paid in full to the penny by the FAA,” Cordaro said.
Luzerne County won’t come up with its half for the project, “unless we have a surety the FAA is going to pay for the cost,” said Vonderheid.
Until a new tower is built, the old one will stay in place and the airport will have to maintain the terminal below it as well as the newly built terminal, the commissioners pointed out.
Kanjorski, who has secured approximately $39 million in federal funds for the airport, said it was his understanding that the tower was included early on. “Part of that original design showed the existence of a traffic-control tower on the other side of the airport.”
Within the past six months he was informed that the tower plan had not moved along. He held a closed- door conference call with the board after its Oct. 4 meeting as a result. At the time he was informed the FAA had decided not to pay for the tower and the commissioners also didn’t want to pay for it, he said.
Hearing that, he said, his concern was that the airport have a tower and that the FAA staff it because of talks about possible cutbacks. “My interest was keeping the controllers here and keeping the facility first rate.”
The congressman said that he later met again at the airport with FAA officials and commissioners Vonderheid and Cordaro and airport administration to discuss the tower situation. He acknowledged that one of the options talked about was having the counties build the tower and lease it to the FAA. Included in the lease would be a “hold harmless clause” stating that the FAA is fully responsible for the lease if it decides to leave the tower.
FAA spokesman Jim Peters confirmed the airport had submitted a projection authorization for the tower this week. The paperwork included lease and construction cost information. The FAA is reviewing the paperwork and will present its findings to the airport which could lead to a lease agreement, said Peters.
Dec 7, 2005, 8:52 PM
Tales from the KOZ woods: Pittston Township's unhappiness with TJ MAXX: Pittston is mid-twixt Scranton and W-B.
A story of Tax deals, broken promises and way low wages..........................-
Posted on Sun, Dec. 04, 2005
TJ Maxx story unhappy one for township
By DAVE JANOSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
PITTSTON TWP. – When a nationwide retailer promises to bring 1,200 new jobs and a $30 million distribution center – the state’s largest KOZ project to date – you wouldn’t expect local politicians to snub the ribbon-cutting.
But that’s what they did when TJ Maxx came to this township of only 3,500 two years ago. The nation’s largest discount clothing chain had to call off its grand opening celebration when the township supervisors, miffed that the company’s wages were lower than expected and that few township residents had been hired, called a boycott.
Township officials say they agreed to grant KOZ status to TJ Maxx and forgo $50,000 in annual real estate taxes – about 23 percent of the township’s revenue from such taxes – through 2013 because they expected the company to pay local workers at least $8 per hour. The company, which was paying $6.50 to start, denied promising higher wages.
Then things got worse.
In September 2003, federal agents, tipped off by township officials, discovered that half of the center’s 544 employees were illegal aliens. The illegal workers resigned or were terminated, the company said.
Later that year, another 261 TJ Maxx employees in an Indiana distribution center quit their jobs after the company asked them to document their immigration status, according to press reports.
The company, which was not penalized because the workers had submitted seemingly legitimate documents, pledged to obey employment laws, raised starting wages at its local center to the $7-$7.75 range, and organized job fairs to recruit local workers. But the relationship between TJ Maxx and the supervisors remains frosty.
Township officials say the company, whose stores and affiliates have monthly sales of about $1 billion, has refused to pay an annual township tax of about $2,500 on the vending machines in its cafeteria –a tax not exempted by KOZ rules. The company also has barred township officials from the center, township officials say.
“I would never have approved the KOZ if I knew we would be living with the situation we have today,” said Supervisor Tony Attardo. “They took advantage of the municipality.”
A TJ Maxx spokeswoman said the company would not comment for this story and denied a request for a tour of the Pittston Township facility, which employs about 950 people, according to KOZ documents filed with the state. The company recently began advertising for workers for a third shift, which could add about 250 jobs, based on its past hiring.
But township officials say the company still employs few township residents – between two and five, Attardo said.
And he said he expects TJ Maxx will pull up stakes after the KOZ status, which saves the company nearly $1.4 million in annual township, school and county real estate taxes, and an undetermined amount in state taxes, expires at the end of 2013. By then, the company will have saved $14.5 million in local taxes on its building and land.
“I think they’re going to stay nine years and pull out,” Attardo said. “When all is said and done, I think they’re going to leave the area.”
The KOZ program contains no penalties for companies that leave a KOZ area after staying five years. And once a zone is approved, there is no way to revoke KOZ status as long as a building is up to local codes and there are no outstanding back taxes.
Attardo said township officials – who had to approve TJ Maxx’s KOZ status along with officials from Luzerne County and the Pittston Area School District – are partly to blame for the situation.
“We were dumb not to research this before we approved it. But who’s going to throw away 1,200 jobs? I never thought they would pull this on us.”
But he said the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce, which sold KOZ land in its Grimes Industrial Park to a TJ Maxx land-holding company and arranged for the company to locate here, shares some blame too.
“They should have known better than to direct us to a client like that.”
Chamber Executive Vice President Rosemary Dessoye said the employment of so many illegal aliens at TJ Maxx in 2003 was “unfortunate and unforgivable.”
And she said the dispute between township officials and TJ Maxx over wages taught the chamber to “ask the right questions” when wooing prospective employers.
But she said she believes the company’s assurances that the illegal-worker issue has been fixed and she expects TJ Maxx to stick around after the tax benefits have dried up.
“I’m just going to trust on faith that they’re going to remain here.”
Dec 8, 2005, 2:46 AM
^ That's real shitty. I think I have only been to TJ Maxx maybe once in my life. I have no desire to go back after reading this.
Dec 8, 2005, 2:59 PM
^^^I should mention that township officials took very quick action when the very blatant importation of illegals (against company promises) occurred. They went after T J Maxx immediately and without apology for being so underhanded. TJ Maxx tried to shame them. it didn't work.
Dec 9, 2005, 3:15 PM
Nice for Wilkes-Barre. The new State Office buidling. only 3 stories but a very handsome, appropriate design for downtown and it's on the same large city block as the Northampton at Main cinema/retail/lofts projects in the construction cam. It's on Washington Street, the street on the right side of the cam view, but just out of sight, unfortunately, in that view. Here's the cam link again.(( PS cam is mounted on the side of a 14 story apartment building cata-corner from the construction site.))
State office building nears completion
By Denise Allabaugh , Staff Writer
The state Department of Labor and Industry building in downtown Wilkes-Barre will officially open Dec. 15 with a noon ribbon-cutting ceremony.
More than 250 state jobs, formerly located at Highland Boulevard in Wilkes-Barre Township, will move to the new $8.5 million office building, located at 47 S. Washington St.
The 68,000-square-foot building also will house 16 Pennsylvania Lottery employees, who are now in an office at 357 S. Main St. in Wilkes-Barre.
"It's a positive step forward in bringing more people to the downtown to work, shop and visit," said Mayor Tom Leighton. "Our goal is to turn Wilkes-Barre into an 18-hour downtown and I'm very confident we will be successful in accomplishing that goal with all the development going on."
Construction of the building began in January. According to the city's 2006 budget, the facility will return approximately $35,000 in property tax revenue since the developer waived the Keystone Opportunity Zone designation.
The site was previously known as Wilkes-Barre's infamous hole in the ground. A movie theater had been planned for the site during former Mayor Tom McGroarty's administration.
Fourteen theaters in addition to retail and residential space are now being constructed at E. Northampton and S. Main streets. The $30 million project is scheduled for completion in June 2006.
State Rep. Kevin Blaum is confident the state office building, in addition to the theaters and the Hotel Sterling project, will bring hundreds of people downtown to work and shop.
"Each piece is important to the rejuvenation of the downtown," Blaum said. "The state office building was a lot of work, but we got it done."
Katie Biernacki, who owns Kelsey's Restaurant and Pub in Ashley, plans to open Kelsey's Pizza and Continental Breakfast on 81 S. Washington St. between the new state office building and the Northampton and Main project in about two weeks.
Kelsey's owner Steve Biernacki expects business will be lucrative at this location when the new state building and theaters open.
"We always thought Wilkes-Barre is coming back and we wanted to be part of it," Biernacki said.
Wilkes-Barre Councilwoman Kathy Kane said the new building is an asset.
"It's a wonderful-looking building. They took such pride in putting it together," Kane said.
Anthony English, executive director of the Catholic Youth Center on South Washington Street, believes the new state office building will benefit the organization since workers may utilize the CYC's day care programs or other programs.
"I think it will benefit the entire city," English said. "I certainly welcome them to the neighborhood."
Dec 10, 2005, 2:17 PM
From WBRE-ch. 28 Headlines on line:
One Step Closer to Slots at Pocono Downs 12/8/05
(Wilkes-Barre's Pocono Downs Racino)
Pocono Downs is the first in the state to apply for a slot license.
It`s another step towards bringing slots to Northeast Pennsylvania.
Today the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority filed its application for a gaming license with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. They are the first in the state to file an application to operate slots... and it wasn`t an easy process. The entire filing was some 40 feet long and weighed more than a half ton!
Applications are being accepted through December 28th. The board is expected to issue a total of 14.
Dec 13, 2005, 2:44 PM
Sterling Hotel project update. Approvals received. The bad news is that the elegant 14 story old tower portion will be destroyed. I'm afraid that it will be replaced with a poorly conceived, unflattering tower with Cope Linder as architects. That's a ways away...........
Posted on Tue, Dec. 13, 2005
Sterling renovation plans given go-ahead
State commission is allowing CityVest to raze portions of landmark hotel.
By JON FOX email@example.com
WILKES-BARRE – The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has approved CityVest’s renovation plans for the Sterling Hotel, including the demolition of the 14-story tower and other elements of the complex.
Because much of the site is listed as part of the River Street Historic District on the national historic registry, CityVest needed state approval to proceed with work.
CityVest, the nonprofit organization that owns and is developing the former hotel, intends to seek bids for environmental abatement work and demolition within days.
The plan focuses on renovating the seven-story corner building, built in 1897, to include a mixture of commercial and residential space. State and Luzerne County officials have approved the plan.
The 14-story tower, constructed in 1928, will be demolished, as will a four-story structure connecting the two buildings. The original smokestack and the power plant for the complex will also be torn down. The approval allows CityVest to more aggressively market the property now that architectural plans prepared by Philadelphia-based firm Cope Linder have been solidified, said Alex Rogers, the nonprofit’s executive director.
“With an approved concept plan we can begin to market the individual units in the hotel,” he said. “All of that stuff before the state approval sort of had an asterisk next to it.”
Demolition and environmental contractors will be selected by late January or early February, with work beginning shortly thereafter, Roger said.
The environmental cleanup and demolition should occur concurrently and be wrapped up in a few months, Rogers said.
The connector building and the large brick tower topped with the Sterling sign each posed problems for redevelopment.
The tower, with its narrow hallways and low ceilings, would have not have been an economically feasible candidate for redevelopment, CityVest officials have said. The original hotel building, the square structure at the corner of River and Market streets, will include a mixture of commercial and residential space, but a second phase of development might include building an eight- to 14-floor tower with hotel space next door.
CityVest officials have repeatedly said that the second phase, including the proposed tower, will be based on the success of the first phase.
The first phase of the project is budgeted at between $22 million and $24 million, of which $9 million in public financing has been secured. CityVest officials plan to seek private financing to close the gap.
“Financial institutions are increasingly interested in the project,” Rogers said.
© 2005 Times Leader and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Dec 14, 2005, 12:08 AM
Kind of sad to see the old rascal go, but I hope this development is successful, and the second phase happens too.
Dec 14, 2005, 1:22 AM
The original ( and beautiful) 110+ year old, 7 story portion of the Sterling will be rehabbed...evidently for condo units...I think it should be uesed again as a hotel...the location is superior, but. I control nothing...rien, nada.....ptui....
Dec 14, 2005, 8:35 PM
Definately a great showcase when crossing the bridge from Kingston. Hope it all works out.
Dec 15, 2005, 4:25 PM
Hopeful words...hopeful sign that things are changing quickly for W-B/ Wyoming Valley.......
Some young talent staying, NOT leaving?.....well whaddya know......
Posted on Thu, Dec. 15, 2005
Betting on Wyoming Valley Exclusive
By RON BARTIZEK firstname.lastname@example.org
“Treating employees and customers very, very well goes hand-in-hand.”
Kevin Brady Pocono Downs slots chief
PLAINS TWP. - PLAINS TWP. – When Kevin Brady graduated from King’s College, the consensus opinion among his peers was that they would not find attractive careers in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“There wasn’t a lot of opportunity to do things here,” Brady, 38, said this week.
But after hopscotching through the Eastern United States casino industry for more than a decade Brady is back, as vice president of slot operations for the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs’ “racino.”
Part of his new job will be to attract many of the estimated 1,000 staff members who will run the gaming, food service and entertainment aspects of the Downs. He thinks the task will be easier than it might have been 15 years ago.
“It’s night and day in terms of development and housing,” Brady said about the region.
While some specialists will have to be imported, Brady said most employees will be hired locally. The primary quality he’ll be looking for is a commitment to customer service. “We’ll be able to train people,” he said, as long as they have that attitude.
The Downs is playing a waiting game at the moment, as state regulators tussle over how slot machines will be supplied to the casinos. “That’s the key roadblock now,” Brady said. “Once we have the ability to buy stuff, that triggers the interviewing and mass hiring.”
Until then, Brady and other executives are getting settled and are planning how to develop the “culture of service” they want to deliver to customers. “Treating employees and customers very, very well goes hand-in-hand,” he said. “You can’t just have four walls and slot machines.”
Brady also is hard at work selecting the machines, choosing the mix of denominations – from a nickel to as much as $500 per pull – and establishing internal controls for the highly regulated enterprise. “There’s a slew of things to do,” he said.
It’s not as if Brady has been a stranger here since earning a degree in criminal justice in 1990. He has returned at least once a year to visit former roommate Ed Voitek and other college pals, sometimes heading off to the shore.
And there’s plenty he likes to do right in the neighborhood, such as attending hockey and football games at Wachovia Arena, skiing and playing golf. “You have the best of all seasons here.”
The Yardley native signed on with the Downs in July, after stints with other casino operators in Louisiana, Missouri and Atlantic City. He began his career as a surveillance observer at a new casino in Lake Charles, La. After leaving for another offer, he returned four months later as surveillance supervisor, with a $7,000 raise. “It was like all the money in the world at the time.”
He spent seven years with Harrah’s, then a year with Boyd Gaming, where his last job was overseeing the gaming operation at Delta Downs in Vinton, La., a racetrack/slot machine venue.
Along the way he earned a master’s degree in business administration from Lindenwood University in St. Louis.
Brady said he liked the Mohegans’ approach to the business when he interviewed for the job here. “When I met (Downs President) Bobby Soper, we had a good connection in terms of how we think about the business.”
He is getting in on the ground floor in two ways: Gaming is new to Pennsylvania and the Mohegans are extending their business beyond their casino in Uncasville, Conn. “This will be their flagship as far as diversifying their business ventures.”
Brady also thinks the revamped Downs may attract more visitors to the region, such as ski groups that now pass by on the way north. “The casino will further help complete the experience for people who come here.”
So how does the graduate of a Catholic high school and college feel about being in the gambling industry?
“Gambling is legal. Nothing is bad in itself,” he said, although he acknowledged that a small share of the population gets into trouble.
The problem is people who abuse this or any other outlet for their compulsions. If it isn’t gambling, “they’ll find something else,” he said.
Kevin Brady: Vice president of slot operations, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from King’s College, 1990. Master of business administration from Lindenwood University, St. Louis, 2000.
The job: Choose machines by style and denomination, manage finance and labor issues, see that customers are treated well.
Background: Worked at casinos since 1993, first in surveillance then working his way up to director of casino operations at Harrah’s, Shreveport, La.
Home life: Single, just moved into a new home in Mountain Top.
Diversions: Skiing, golf, hockey and football games at the Wachovia Arena.
Quotable: “You can’t give great customer service without giving great internal customer service to your employees.”
Dec 16, 2005, 2:59 PM
U of S on front line of new Internet2 educational link
BY JOSH BRODESKY STAFF WRITER
The University of Scranton will be the regional hub for Internet2, a high-speed network used exclusively for education and research purposes.
Internet2 is not open to the public, but is a consortium of more than 200 universities that use the network to exchange research and information. For example, an astronomy professor on the East Coast could use Internet2 to view stars through telescopic images in Hawaii. Or a music class at an area school could use it to video conference with musicians at leading universities.
The network is noncommercial, and is also available to schools, museums, libraries, public hospitals and for-profit corporations for research purposes. As a regional hub, the University of Scranton will provide Internet2 access to institutions throughout Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, Pike, Sullivan and Bradford counties.
“This is a network that is devoted solely to the education and research community,” said Gregory Palmer, executive director of Mid-Atlantic Gigapop in Philadelphia for Internet2, the region’s network connector.
Internet2 is a fiber-optic network that can handle up to 10 gigabits of information. Because the network is non-commercial, there is much less traffic. The results are high-definition images and quicker downloads.
“There is no congestion on Internet2,” said Jerome DeSanto, the university’s vice president for planning and chief information officer.
At a presentation Thursday morning, university officials played video over commercial and Internet2 connections. The difference in download times was about 10 seconds. While the images on commercial Internet either skipped or looked fuzzy, the images on Internet2 were crisp and smooth.
“It’s like TV,” Connie Wisdo, the university’s director of technology development and innovation, said.
The university also held a joint graduation ceremony
¦ Connection speed: Between 5 and 100 megabits per second and operates on a 10-gigabit fiber network.
¦ Hub: University of Scranton
¦ Counties served: Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wayne, Pike, Wyoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Bradford.
¦ Who can connect: Colleges and universities, schools, intermediate units, libraries, museums, hospitals and private corporations that partner with schools for research.
Dec 17, 2005, 7:15 PM
Major land purchase details: proceeds will prolly accrue to Louis DeNaples, alleged head of Theta Land Corp which made the original purchase of 40,000 acres of pristine land for a litlte bitty $12 Milllion.
Oh, that Louis.....
Two groups vying to buy Theta land
BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK
About 4,000 acres of former watershed land in Lackawanna County could be sold to one of two land preservation groups if the state approves money for the buy.
About 4,000 acres of former watershed land in Lackawanna County could be sold to one of two land preservation groups if the state approves money for the buy.
The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund have filed competing applications to buy the acreage from the Theta Land Co., the land holding company once owned by the Pennsylvania Gas & Water Co. and its successor, Southern Union Co., said Christina Novak, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The Nature Conservancy has applied for $1.5 million, the Conservation Fund has applied for $2 million to buy the land.
Ms. Novak declined to identify the location of the land the groups hope to preserve, citing sensitive negotiations over the land deal and its price. The state is expected to decide on the applications by early January.
She said it is unlikely the state would approve both because both are for the same land.
The grants, which would come from the state Growing Greener fund, would cover half the cost of the purchase. Someone, presumably the county, would have to come up with the rest.
The county is planning a bond issue of about $30 million for various projects and is planning to include $3 million for land preservation, County Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro said recently.
Bud Cook, senior project manager for the Nature Conservancy’s Poconos office, declined to comment on the deal, saying it is the group’s policy not to talk about land deals until they are completed.
Todd McNew, a real estate representative in the Conservation Fund’s Harrisburg office, previously confirmed his group’s interest in the land but declined to comment further.
Theta, whose owner is unknown, has sold about 10,500 acres — most of them in Luzerne County but some in Lackawanna — to the Conservation Fund partly with state money. That included 2,000 acres known as the Watres property in Lackawanna County that was added to the Lackawanna State Forest in June 2004.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is providing state grants to buy up land and prevent its development from the Growing Greener bonds voters approved last year.
Over the next six years, the department is expected to receive $90 million from the bonds for land preservation.
Local environmentalists fear development of the former watershed could harm drinking water and create other problems.
Contact the writer: email@example.com
Dec 19, 2005, 4:17 PM
Fresh construction cam link for Northampton at Main project.
Almost there! I don't get what's going on in the foreground corner of the structure though.....maybe a stairwell for cinema exit since they're all on second floor....?
Dec 24, 2005, 1:45 PM
Landmark Wilkes-Barre office building sold to confident Brooklyn investor.
The 14 story building was designed by Burnham, noted Chicago architect who designed NYC's famous Flatiron Building:
Brooklyn, N.Y., businessman buys Citizens Bank Building
By Tim Gulla , Staff Writer
Wilkes-Barre City's tallest landmark is under new ownership for the second time since 2003.
The 14-story Citizens Bank Building, as it's known because of the prominent sign on its roof, was bought by a new holding company established by Brooklyn, N.Y., businessman Zalmer Reiss, the owner of electronics, computer and camera distribution company Z. Reiss & Associates.
Wilkes-Barre Attorney David Schwager, who represented Reiss' holding company, WB Holdings L.P., in the transaction, said Reiss is banking on good things locally.
"My client feels that in light of the positive movement toward the overall revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre, now was a good time to invest in our area," Schwager said.
"He believes he can turn this landmark building back into the first-class rental space it was dating back to its construction in the early 20th century."
Conshohocken-based Preferred Real Estate Investments, a company that develops and renovates office buildings, had owned the building since 2003. It was one of several Citizens Bank buildings the company bought in an apparent package deal and PREI placed it back on the real estate market shortly after the purchase.
Deeds on file at the office of Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds Mary K. Dysleski show WB Holdings purchased the building for the exact amount as PREI - $2.5 million.
The building at 8-18 West Market St. was built in 1911 and designed by pioneering Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham.
Burnham designed the Flat Iron building in New York City, the wedge-shaped skyscraper at 23rd Street, Broadway and Fifth Avenue, as well as the 14-story Reliance Building in Chicago.
The Wilkes-Barre building is very similar to the Reliance Building.
Schwager said Reiss "was obviously looking for opportunities" and someone brought the progress in Wilkes-Barre to Reiss' attention.
"No one invests money thinking the area is not going to succeed. He's hoping everything he seeing in the development of the downtown continues, and that what he does will be good for the city and what the city is doing will be good for his investment."
Reiss could not be reached for comment at his Brooklyn office Friday afternoon.
Schwager could not say what immediate plans Reiss has for the building in terms of upgrades, repair or remodeling.
"He has nothing concrete, but obviously it's a building that's in need of some attention, and he certainly intends to give it the attention that it deserves over a period of time."
The Citizens Bank Building began life as the Miners National Bank Building. It later became the United Penn Bank Building, the Mellon Bank Building, and ultimately the Citizens Bank Building.
Dec 25, 2005, 5:38 PM
This maybe a bit off topic but does anyone know if that show the "office" is really taped in Scranton? I love that show....
Dec 25, 2005, 11:18 PM
^ It isn't, sad to say. It's done on the left coast, with some brief shots of DT Scranton in the intro..along the Central Scranton Expway....some fuzzy view of the Univ. of Scranton. All too brief.
There is evidently a major movie that will be filmed in Scranton something done by friends of/ and Paul Sorvino...who has a spread in the Endless Mountains or the Poconos...can't remember which.
Dec 28, 2005, 2:23 PM
Mira! Mira!.....Ms. Sorvino sworn in as deputy cop in Scranton (her papa Paul was already deputized when he filmed "That Championsip Season" in Scranton in the 1980's. Sorvino's be luvvin' Scranton & NEPA and vice-versa......smooooch....
Here is the NY Daily News account:
New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
Sheriff gets an acting
deputy: Mira Sorvino
Wednesday, December 28th, 2005
Look for a crime rise in Lackawanna County, Pa. Even law-abiding men may find reasons to get frisked now that Mira Sorvino has been made a deputy sheriff.
The fetching Oscar winner was sworn in yesterday at the county sheriff's office in Scranton. The 38-year-old actress marched in wearing knee-high boots, though they looked much sexier on her than on motorcycle cops. And rather than carrying a firearm, she was packing her 1-year-old daughter, Mattea.
Just as Elvis received a federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge from President Richard Nixon in 1970, Sorvino can look forward to getting her shield shortly.
Sheriff John Szymanski, who snapped her ID photo, said Sorvino "would be a nice addition to the force. She's a very beautiful young lady."
Lest any real cop take umbrage, Szymanski said the badge "doesn't afford her any police powers. It's ceremonial."
Tell that to Mira's father, Paul Sorvino, who received his deputy sheriff's badge in 1982, when he shot "That Championship Season" in Scranton. Szymanski said the sheriff's office recognized the elder Sorvino - along with cast mates Martin Sheen, Robert Mitchum and Bruce Dern and director Jason Miller - because "the movie was a big deal for the town."
But Paul takes his oath seriously.
"I know I've stopped at least two robberies," the 66-year-old actor told us. "Another time, I saw a guy driving in a very dangerous way. I followed him for 5 miles and called it in."
"I do have a permit to carry a gun," added the actor, who has played mobsters and cops. "I've been a competition shooter. I was chairman of the Charlton Heston Shoot."
"Mira also knows how to handle a gun," says the proud papa. "She used one in 'Human Trafficking' and in 'The Replacement Killers.'"
"Paul is in love with law enforcement," said Szymanski, who has also made Paul's son, Matthew, and Mira's husband, Chris Backus, deputy sheriffs.
"Whenever I can help, I do," Paul went on. "One time, some officers were subduing a guy on the highway and I stopped traffic."
Though perhaps not as well as Mira could.
With Jo Piazza and Chris Rovar
Jan 5, 2006, 4:27 PM
Here's a fresh link to the Construction Cam of Northampton and Main project.
I was in NEPA last week and saw it first hand. Happy to report that it is a quality project, not schlock. Ditto for the new State office building around the corner (out of view). Anyway, they're buildin' like a bugger as they'd say back home, the warm weather helps. The old buildings on South Main (out of view on the far side of the site) are now gutted, except for the facades and should make interesting loft spaces as well as retail on the street level.
Heppy New Year, folkers!
Jan 5, 2006, 11:36 PM
More on the fate of the Irem Temple Mosque in Wilkes-Barre: getting to work on its return to service! Sweet! It's alenghty article..so I'll just give the link:
Jan 8, 2006, 6:48 PM
Posted on Sun, Jan. 08, 2006 TIMES-LEADER
Silicon Wyoming Valley?
w-b companies lead way as computer jobs take off in region
By RON BARTIZEK firstname.lastname@example.org
WILKES-BARRE – Fast-growing, high-technology businesses. Wilkes-Barre.
Not long ago, putting all those words in one sentence would have created an oxymoron; a series of words that contradicts itself, such as “jumbo shrimp.”
But two local companies are proving that high-tech and low profile can fit together quite nicely. And their success is creating job opportunities commonly thought to exist only in California … or India.
That’s what Steve McDonald believed as he contemplated the future in 2002.
“I had been planning to go out West,” he said last week while taking a break from his job at Solid Cactus, one of the largest designers of e-commerce Web sites in the nation.
McDonald had been working from home in Delaware as a freelance photographer and Web page designer. Some of his jobs came from Solid Cactus, then a small spinoff of Neeps, Inc., an Internet seller of pet supplies, particularly for ferrets.
McDonald owned a ferret, and got to know Solid Cactus owners Joe Palko and Scott Sanfilippo. Instead of going west, he took a look at what the company was doing and in April 2003 became one of less than a half dozen staff members.
“Once I got here there was no looking back,” said McDonald, 25, who now holds the title Director of RTML Development. The acronym RTML refers to Yahoo!’s proprietary programming language, on which pages are built.
McDonald now has more company at work; Solid Cactus employs 33 people and Sanfilippo said last week he expects to hire another 20 this year. To accommodate the growth, Solid Cactus is taking more space in the Jewelcor Center, enlarging its first-floor offices and expanding onto the second floor.
A few blocks away, pepperjamSEARCH.com also has been growing rapidly, adding 11 jobs that took its staff to 19. Owner Kristopher Jones says that’s only the beginning.
“We’re poised for at least 100 percent if not 200 percent growth in 2006,” he said.
The two companies work at complementary ends of the Internet commerce world. Solid Cactus creates and improves e-commerce Web sites for clients ranging from a family selling grandma’s cookies to the National Wildlife Federation, more than 2,500 in all Sanfilippo said. The “stores” are built only on the Yahoo! Small Business platform, which uses the RTML language.
Someone interested in starting a site using the Yahoo! system can log on to http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com and choose from 61 designers. Solid Cactus occupies the top left position on the list. “We’re the featured one,” Sanfilippo said, and the only designer that offers affordable pre-designed templates.
Because of its size and experience, Sanfilippo said Yahoo! also refers most of its high-revenue customers to Solid Cactus.
Pepperjam has carved out a different niche, or really two of them. The company specializes in “affiliate marketing” by which a Web destination’s owner can capitalize on the traffic to its site. While the site may not be set up to sell anything, visitors can be directed to Internet or brick-and-mortar stores that carry items of similar interest.
For example, a golden retriever lover might have a site that’s all about her dogs. Pepperjam can establish links from the site to retailers of food or other products that dog owners need. The site owner is paid a percentage of sales to customers referred from their site. Pepperjam gets paid a portion as well.
On a larger scale, pepperjam manages the online affiliates of the upromise college savings program, which lists 350 Internet stores. “It’s the kind of thing that requires dedication of time and resources,” Jones said, a level of commitment that is difficult for a nonspecialist to provide.
Pepperjam’s other concentration is search marketing, those links that pop up when someone uses Google, Yahoo! or another search engine to find a particular word or phrase. Pepperjam has created its own software that helps clients to get the most return for their advertising investment. “The cool thing about it is that you’re able to connect with a consumer who is in the buying cycle,” Jones said.
Advertising prices are rising as search engine use grows – Jones says industry predictions are for a 35 percent activity increase this year – so it’s important to make the most of opportunities.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Jones said. “To be able to put them in a position where they make more money than they spend.”
Positions at the two companies require similar education and experience. “In general we’re hiring information technology and business grads,” Jones said.
The more technical jobs, such as programmers and Web site developers, definitely need a degree in those fields. At Solid Cactus, that is the beginning, since the Yahoo! program language isn’t taught. “We can train at this level,” Palko said.
Other positions, such as marketing and account management, don’t require as much technical background, but familiarity with the Internet is important. “They need to know what makes a good Web site,” Palko said.
So far, pepperjam has been able to find needed skills locally. “As a company policy we are very interested in hiring the best and the brightest from the area,” Jones said. Applicants need to be self-motivated, he said, ones who might think they have to move to a big city to find opportunities.
“In general we have been very fortunate to find some really top-of-the-line people,” including a former King’s College valedictorian, he said.
The work pays well by the region’s standards. Palko said a recent grad hired for an entry-level programming job would earn a minimum of $33,000. Higher level positions pay more.
While that is high for the area, it is considerably below typical salaries in metropolitan areas such as Boston or San Francisco. But the cost of living is low here as well, which Palko said is good for the business model.
“It allows you to grow faster,” he said, because staff can be added more easily.
Other high-tech opportunities are available at Sallie Mae, the national student loan provider with a center in the Hanover Industrial Park. The company announced in October that it would fill 150 IT spots by the end of this year.
“I believe as of year end we were around 30,” said spokesman Tom Joyce of the additions, which are on schedule.
The hiring started with senior level managers, who will be involved in filling out their departments.
“It’s going very well,” Joyce said. “The local human resources manager said the quality and quantity of resumes have exceeded expectations.” He said 200-300 resumes were received within a few days after the openings were announced.
Joyce said the new hires were mostly from northeastern Pennsylvania. These jobs also require programming and IT backgrounds, and Joyce said entry-level positions pay in the low $30s. Adding in the higher level positions raises the average to between $70,000 and $80,000.
Joyce said Sallie Mae works closely with colleges and universities to let them know what skills are needed. Jones takes a similar approach and works with intern coordinators. “That’s been a good base to draw from,” he said, and many interns have become regular employees.
Employment information for the companies mentioned in this article is available on their Web sites:
To read a survey about employment opportunities in the region, go to www.worknplaynepa.com
While high-technology careers are becoming more plentiful in the region, a 2005 survey of 1,015 employers found that health-care jobs would be in the greatest demand during the next three years, accounting for 29 percent of the new jobs. In Luzerne County, the largest employers are hospitals and health-care systems, schools and government agencies.
But it looks as if computer-related positions will exceed the projections derived from that survey. Information technology positions were pegged to be 4 percent of an expected 6,045 jobs, or 242 jobs in the seven-country survey area. If their plans hold up, the three companies interviewed for this article will add nearly 200 IT jobs this year alone.
Ron Bartizek, Times Leader business editor, may be reached at 970-7157.
Jan 10, 2006, 1:50 PM
More positive news. New street lights underway and none too soon. Many of the olds ones rusted and toppled, replaced by gigantic emergeny lighting things that they use for disasters. Not pretty. Butt ugly. :slob:
Streetlight project kicks off in W-B
By Denise Allabaugh , Staff Writer
WILKES-BARRE - Work to install new streetlights in downtown Wilkes-Barre began Monday with drilling in front of Circles on the Square on Public Square.
It was the start of the $7 million project's phase one, which involves replacing streetlights for one block of Northampton Street, two blocks of South Main Street, two blocks of West Market Street, two blocks of East Market Street and Public Square.
The new streetlights on Public Square, East Northampton Street and East and West Market streets will be 25-feet historic combination fixtures, similar to those used around Public Square in the 1930s. Those on South Main Street will be post-top acorn lanterns.
Circles on the Square owner Phil Rudy looks forward to the new streetlights, which will replace lights on antiquated red poles. Some poles have collapsed.
"The new streetlights will be a major addition to the downtown," Rudy said.
Odyssey Construction is doing the drilling work, which could take two months, said Jim Wood, project manager. The company is a subcontractor for Kuharchik Construction of Exeter, which will be paid approximately $1.87 million for phase one of the project.
"We will drill all the sidewalks. We plan to move from hole to hole so they can connect all the lights. They will set all the light bases and do all the wiring," Wood said. "Eventually, all the old lights will go away because they are in bad shape."
Phase one of the streetlight project is expected to be complete in the summer, and then phase two will start.
U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., came to Wilkes-Barre on Thursday to announce $1 million in federal funding for phase two, which involves replacing streetlights along three blocks of North Main Street from Public Square to North Street with
post-top acorn lanterns and 25-feet combination fixtures. Phase two is expected to begin in the summer.
Phase three involves replacing streetlights on two blocks of Franklin Street and two blocks of Washington Street. A $2 million federal earmark will fund phase three.
Jan 10, 2006, 10:31 PM
I forgot mention that the old Scranton Electric Building's sign has been redone and has been re lit. It's just fantastic! Good for Scranton.....I have to providee a link. Couldn't get the picture to open otherwise.
Jan 11, 2006, 12:17 AM
That's great, I think that bldg is so cool, and the lite sign just adds to the coolness.
Jan 11, 2006, 12:51 AM
It IS cool, isn't it ? :)
By day (before the sign's restoration)
Jan 12, 2006, 3:11 PM
Uh oh. A fly in the ointment for the Sterling Hotel project in Wilkes-Barre.
Important & significant example of eminent domain vs. property rights:
State court overturns Sterling parking lot ruling
By Edward Lewis , Staff Writer
State Commonwealth Court overturned a decision by a Luzerne County judge that gave Wilkes-Barre City ownership of a private parking lot next to the Hotel Sterling.
Despite the ruling on Monday, Wilkes-Barre City Assistant Attorney Bill Vinsko said the city will continue to fight for the lot that is vital to the resurrection of the historic hotel.
"The issue essentially is whether the city has the authority to take this property," Vinsko said. "There will be an evidentiary hearing where both sides will present their case and the judge will rule on that issue."
On April 13, President Judge Michael Conahan transferred ownership of the parking lot from Ali Kazimi and Nasser Chafieian to the city under eminent domain. The 37,000 square-foot level lot is accessible by North Franklin Street.
Vinsko said the city is planning to construct a multi-level parking garage at the site.
Attorney Sandor Yelen said the non-profit group CityVest, which is renovating the Hotel Sterling, and his clients couldn't negotiate a selling price for the parking lot.
Yelen said CityVest had the city condemn the property by eminent domain, which he questioned on appeal.
"You can't condemn the property from a private person for private use," Yelen said. "To condemn property, it has to be for public use. (CityVest) has nothing to do with the public."
Vinsko said the city is planning to build the parking garage for public use, not CityVest.
"They want to use it as a parking lot; it's already a parking lot," Yelen said.
Jan 12, 2006, 5:27 PM
Not sure if I'm reading this correctly dony. Is the city trying to just take the property over without fair compensation to the current owners? That's not right, and I can see why they'd be pissed. Especially since the usage of the land isn't really changing. I hope this can all be worked out, WB needs that hotel NOW.:D
Jan 12, 2006, 10:11 PM
Not sure if I'm reading this correctly dony. Is the city trying to just take the property over without fair compensation to the current owners? That's not right, and I can see why they'd be pissed. Especially since the usage of the land isn't really changing. I hope this can all be worked out, WB needs that hotel NOW.:D
It ain't your readin' EX Ith...the reportage is slim and lacks the full story. If memory serves (and that's if) I recall reading that the issue is money. The lot owner thinks its value is higher than the amount the city had agreed to provide based upon appraisals deemed appropriate. So, it's one sense of value vs. the other I believe. I had the sense that the lot owner has a real good idea of the importance of the lot to the project sooooo, I doubt he'll let the opportunity pass without maximizing his windfall, since opportunity in W-B comes a -knockin' so rarely, as it were....IF I get a bona fide accounting of the matter, I'll post it, since you asked... A bientot.
And yes, the project needs to get cracking :whip: ooh ow ooh ow...
Jan 12, 2006, 11:03 PM
A somewhat similar situation occured in Ithaca, and it threatened to hold up a major project. It was eventually worked out to both parties' satisfaction, and now downtown Ithaca has a new tallest.:D
Let's hope the negotiations in W-B go well and get resolved soon.
Jan 13, 2006, 4:10 PM
Northampton and Main project Construction Cam fresh link to lighten the atmosphere......:)
The structural steel frame is almost a memory now.
Jan 13, 2006, 4:15 PM
Gotta love construction cams (or any cams of a downtown). Looks like the weather pretty nice in W/B today.
Jan 14, 2006, 1:58 AM
Northampton and Main floor plans:
Exterior rendering: Northampton Street elevation:
Jan 14, 2006, 8:24 AM
^ that's awesome!
Jan 14, 2006, 9:03 PM
Here are some pics I took, some are old (but not changed). I have some more pics on my Northeast PA thread on Urban Planet, I had some trouble posting on here until recently. Others such as the movie theater project in WB and the Pocono Wind Farm are from Thursday afternoon and evening:
I'll start with Scranton:
The Hill section of Scranton by "DA'-U":
Jan 14, 2006, 9:08 PM
Here's the ones I took in Wilkes-Barre Thursday Afternoon/Evening, January 12, 2006:
Wilkes-Barre Center and Provincial Towers- with a nice full moon in the background :) :
Another view but with Northeast PA's tallest building (16 stories and 170-180 feet?) to the left of the other 2:
New Construction on South Washington St.:
And Here's the new Movie Theater Project at the once blighted South Main and Northampton:
And here's the project from the S. Washington St. side:
I thought I'd throw "the projects" in for some grit:
City Hall in the foreground on the left, The Old Stegmaier Brewery in the background (now goverment offices):
St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church in North End. In the same few blocks is also 2 Polish Churches, another Orthodox Church, a Slovak-Rite Catholic Church, A Slovak-Lutheran Church... North End was mainly known for it's Slovak, Russian, and Ruthenian population:
And here's the Slovak Church, in back of the Slovak Bar:
A rather blurry density shot of the Heights section:
Some better shots of the Pocone Wind-Farm, or part of it:
View from E. Northampton at night:
Jan 14, 2006, 9:50 PM
Here's some nature scenes from around the Wilkes-Barre area:
The Conyngham Valley, south of the city-closer to Hazleton:
These 2 are looking across the river toward the west side and the Back Mountain:
Sunset in back of my house:
Bear Creek from the back of the Bear Creek Inn:
The Hilldale Section of Plains Township with Campbell's Ledge in the background:
Bald Mountain/ Plains Township- from my back porch... This is before they started the wind farm:
These are from last weekend:
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, Miners Mills section of Wilkes-Barre- The "racino" will be to the left of the picture and is across the street from this church:
Here's the Hudson section of Plains Township, an example of one of the more typical older working-class/middle class, ethnic neighborhoods- also very close to where the Casino/Racino will be:
Looking toward the VA Hospital, one of our tallest suburban buildings:
Now here's a few older pics I took before I got my digital camera:
Here's looking down into Wilkes-Barre from coal street(roughly a 45 degree angle), at night this is one of the more dramatic "Urban" entrances to the city:
Here's a daytime view from E. Northampton:
Here's a panoramic view of Wilkes-Barre from the Laurel Run Mountain just east of the city:
And for the oldest pic I have, I took this about 7 or 8 years ago of the Market Street bridge on a Summer evening:
Jan 14, 2006, 10:39 PM
Nice pics LJ, but the last one is gonna change when the new hotel replaces the old one. BTW, haven't seen you around here in a while, been taking a break?
Jan 15, 2006, 6:53 AM
Those are some really nice shots of Scranton and WB area. I haven't seen so many, good to see.
Jan 16, 2006, 3:29 PM
Nice pics LJ! Quite a travelogue of NEPA and W-B, Scranton.
Highlights for me are the skyline views of both cities. I love WB Public Sq. shots toward West Market and entering DT WB from the Market St. Bridge
I love that DT Scranton is on a plateau. It's especially interesting to enter DT from below street level from the west and from the south. Obviously, entering DT from I-81 is exciting too......
The Conyngham Valley is breathtaking. It's unbelievable happening on the Valley coming from the east from Freeland/White Haven and from any other approach since they all involve views from nearby mountain tops. Jack Palance had a farm in the Conyngham Valley.
Also, nice shot of the beautiful Covenant Presbyterian Church in Scranton, the new State office Building in WB around the corner from the new Northampton and Main project (well done!).
I hate, hate, hate the Provincial Towers apartment building in WB and always have. Gag me with a spooooon.
Anyway, there's plenty of visual interest there. Thanks for exploring it for us!
Jan 16, 2006, 8:52 PM
Thanks. Although I'll be in DC much of this week if there is anything anyone wants to see let me know I'll try and get a picture. I live in the Wilkes-Barre area and work in DT Scranton so I get around a lot.
I'd really like to get a full shot of the Wilkes-Barre skyline that would include both the residential highrises on the south end of DT and the courthouse Kings College area. The best view seems to be from the lower part of the Heights around S Grant Street but it's hard to find a spot where a house isn't in the way. Larksville Mtn. has some nice veiws but its hard to get to.
The fullest and most urban View of Scranton seems to be from west Scranton but again its hard to find a comftorble or safe place to photograph it.
Any advice on where to get a nice shot of either city would be appreciated(w/o trespessing on private property or anything). Being that this is not a tourist area I sometimes get a suspicious look when I'm taking pictures of things w/ my big clunky camera. When I got the shot of Covenant Presbyterian some guy confronted me asking why I just tried to take a picture of HIM :haha:
Jan 19, 2006, 3:16 PM
LJ: Here's photo from the southwest but it still doesn't fit in every apartment high rise. It must have been take from the Hazle Avenue area? I see the Murray complex (brick factory that was Hazard Wireworks a century ago) in the lower foreground.
OR here's a link to that photo in case it doesn't open up....
Jan 20, 2006, 8:10 PM
Here's sone new home development:
Here's looking toward West Pittston, notice the culm bank on the right hand side...
Heres part of Wyoming, West Wyoming, and Swoyersville. It's all approximate since these west side towns run right into each other:
Jan 20, 2006, 10:44 PM
Here's one of the Pocono Downs area I took today (1-20-06) for reference sake. This is the site of the one proposed casino or racino...
And here's Plains at sunset on a rather hazy evening:
Jan 22, 2006, 7:20 PM
Leave it up to Wikipedia to have a special article on the local dialect including heyna? or no? I guess Pittsburgh is known for Yinzers, Baltimore for "hon", Boston for "wiked", Canadians for "Eh", NYC for "fuggedaboudit!"... We have Heyna.
I think Scranton and Pittston show more of a New York/New England influence, while Nanticoke and Hazleton have more of a typical PA influence. The article doent really mention the Connecticut Yankee influence much (which was mainly from Plymouth on North).
Some examples I know of:
"Yo, how bout a couple-2-tree of dem haah-dahgs? What ahh-dey a buck-2-fifty?
"I'll have a pastrami on rye SANGwich and a cuppa KAAH-fee.
"A glassa WAH-da"
"Those pudpinkies we picked in the woods were pretty good, Heyna?"
"I got a bus ticket to go downda' LANNIC city with my AHnt wit da SlovAAk(rhymes with Jack) Church."
"Windy day today, Heyna?" Reply: "YUP, YUP, Big Time!"
This is far less pronounced anong the younger generation and among the suburban middle class. But still occurs in the older, working class neighborhoods.
Jan 22, 2006, 11:53 PM
My folks grew up in Peckville, and had a very pronounced accent for many years. They eventuall lost much of it after living in Ithaca for such a long time. I do recall the kids teasing me in 4th grade when we were studying indigenous people of South/Central America. I pronounce "mine" like "Mayan". Guess I got that from the folks. Thank goodness I've lost much of my Peckville and Ithaca accents. Now I sound like nothing special. I guess vanilla can be boring. Interesting stuff LJ, thanks.
Jan 23, 2006, 2:41 PM
The Planter's Peanut building's fate is decided. Facadectomy, alas. The mayor didn't pursue the idea of a Planters' Museum for W-B despite the fact that the company began there! (Even I wrote to Planter's to encourage them to pursue a museum..as good publicity for them and good for the city).
Atlantic City, meanwhilst, IS taking up the charge for Planter's by bringing back Mr. Peanut (the poor soul who has to wear the torso-covering plastic peanut shell and top hat outfit) and building a statue!
It's dumb. Here's a chance for Wilkes-Barre to have something to distinguish itself) and those opportunitiess don't grow on trees for W-B!) and they opt for another off-downtown strip mall which will help draw business from the DT that they are trying to revivify, which was decimated by the West Side (Edwardsville) shopping cnters beginning in the 50's, both of ,in turn were decimated by the Wyoming Valley Mall in WB Township beginning in the 70's and all of which will be challenged by the proposed upscale Shoppes at Montage near Scranton area's Montage Mountain stadium/cinmea/office park/ ford Pavillion complex.
Who knows......Some places get their 15 minutes of fame..others their 15 minutes of lame.
The article is here:
Jan 24, 2006, 4:03 PM
Time to freshen the Construction Cam link for convenience. I should email Sordoni Construction to make sure they keep it up & running for a time after completion. Whaddya think? We can either watch street scenes of moviepatrons and diners or crime scenes unless they get a handle on accelerating DT crimes. drug based, of course.
Jan 24, 2006, 4:34 PM
great pics LJinPA
Jan 26, 2006, 7:48 AM
My sister sent this to me, not sure of the source, could any of these refer to down in Pottsville also?:
>> You know you are from Scranton when...
>> * U can name every town between Wilkes-Barre and Carbondale (in
>> * Ur Church and favorite "beer garden" are Conveniently located on
>> the same corner.
>> * U know the difference between halushki and halupki.
>> * Ur three favorite holidays are: St. Paddy's Day, the first day
>> of buck season, and the night they light the Times Tower.
>> * U know "up the line" from "down the line".
>> * Driving to your brother-in-law's in Wilkes-Barre constitutes
>> going out of town for Thanksgiving.
>> * U're on the local funeral director's Christmas card list And you
>> have one of his calendars hanging in the kitchen.
>> * It takes you a good three minutes to read the Sunday paper.
>> * U're not worried about that fire plug in front of your house
>> working because there aren't enough firemen left to turn it on anyway.
>> * U know the airport's really in Avoca.
>> * U can tell the difference between an "Irish" church and an
>> "Italian" church just by the name.
>> * When giving directions you always mention at least one bar or
>> funeral home.
>> * U know what a "corpse house" is.
>> * U insist on calling them "column banks".
>> * U tell everyone from out of town that the reason u live here is
>> because "It's the best place in the world to raise a family," and then
>> complain because there's nothing for the kids to do, no jobs except
>> minimum wage.
>> * U brag about your brother who has a big job in Philly.
>> * Ur immediate family has at least one person who "works" at
>> Tobyhanna or "The Depot".
>> * U've ever ridden a bus to Atlantic City, "Cause it only costs 12
>> bucks and they give you 10 in quarters".
>> * U plan your summer vacation "to the shore" around the fireman's
>> and/or Church picnic.
>> * U love/hate Penn State, Notre Dame, Yankees, and the Red Sox.
>> * When U were a kid you used to get your sneakers at the
>> Aaa-cuh-mee (ACME).
>> * U would never walk down Mulberry Street at night.
>> * U've never even been to Steamtown.
>> * As far as you're concerned it's "Rude 81" because U think Jersey
>> drivers are the worst in the world.
>> * U pronounce the following correctly: chimbly, li-bary, sangwich,
>> and brudder.
>> * Ur chuchi lives next door to your nonni.
>> * Kill-bossy is the main course at Christmas dinner.
>> * They're HOAGIES dammit!
>> * Someone in your family "went tudda U" (NOW WE SAY WHICH
>> * U order a "tray of pizza".
>> * U miss Sugerman's.
>> * U know what a "smidgen" is.
>> * U have drank keystone light for six nights in a row.
>> * U have ever hung out in Dunkin' Donuts or on the Old Forge Main
>> Street for an entire night.
>> * U remember the Globe store.
>> * U have eaten an entire box of Krispy Kreme donuts in 20 minutes.
>> * U know who Tilly and Tony the elephants are.
>> * Ur mom makes the world's best piggies and smashed pa-tay-das.
>> * U are connected to everyone through at most 3 people.
>> * U have carried a keg in the woods to party.
>> * U spend at least two nights of Italian Festival week walking
Jan 26, 2006, 8:18 AM
And this one of you know you're from Boston..... Almost all of these could be Northeast PA just as well, esp the ones I boldfaced:
YOU KNOW YOU'RE FROM BOSTON WHEN...
You think of Philadelphia as the Midwest.
You think it's your God-given right to cut someone off in traffic.
You think there are only 25 letters in the alphabet (no R's).
You think three straight days of 90+ temperatures is a heatwave.
All your pets are named after Celtics or Bruins.
You refer to 6 inches of snow as a "dusting."
Just hearing the words "New York" puts you in an angry mood.
You don't think you have an attitude.
You always 'bang a left' as soon as the light turns green, and oncoming traffic always expects it.
Everything in town is "a five minute walk."
When out of town, you think the natives of the area are all whacked.
You still can't bear to watch highlights from game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
You have no idea what the word compromise means.
You believe using your turn signal is a sign of weakness.
You don't realize that you walk and talk twice as fast as everyone else.
You're anal, neurotic, pessimistic and stubborn.......ESPECIALLY this one ;)
You think if someone is nice to you, they must want something or are from out of town.
Your favorite adjective is "wicked."
You think 63 degree ocean water is warm.
You think the Kennedy's are misunderstood.
Jan 26, 2006, 1:25 PM
^^ LOL, love the NE PA ones. I mish Sugerman's and the Globe too. As a kid I remember going to the Globe with my Mother, Aunt and cousin and eating at the cafeteria. My cousin and I would go to one of the big movie theatres while our moms shopped. Good times.
Jan 26, 2006, 1:58 PM
Don't forget Scranton Dry Goods too.
I can relate to much of the foregoing although I hail from lower Luzerne County. I made 'piggies' last weekend all by myself! and they were excellent if I do say so myself.... the rest of the world thinks pigs in the blanket are those gross little hot dogs wrapped in mediocre puff pastry not the stuffed cabbage delicacies that we revere!
You're also from NEPA if you say things like "I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts"... and in my neck of the woods, we heard 'hainna'? all to often....instead of the proper English 'ain't it?' :)
In WilkesBarre there were several department stores, not quite on par with the Globe which was New York level/ We had Pomeroy's, Fowler, Dick & Walker- The Boston Store, Isaac Long, and Lazarus that's when downtown was thriving with crowds. theaters. trackless trolleys .....
Jan 26, 2006, 2:04 PM
Ahhh yes, the good old days of downtown shopping. That's when it was an adventure and kind of mini vacation.
My Aunt Annie made the best piggies, and I'm not even fond of cabbage. She also made halupki, but I never got into that as much, though my brother loved it.
Jan 27, 2006, 5:35 PM
Here's some more interesting facts about this area:
In the 2000 census we were:
*The metro with the highest % of Polish (23% as opposed to Chicago's 10%), Lithuanian, Ukranian, and Eastern European ancestry in general (35-40%) by a very huge margin.
*Second highest % of Russian ancestry next to Bismarck, ND.
*3rd or 4th highest % of Slovak ancestry.
*In the top 5 or top 10 for highest % Irish(23% compared to Boston's 24%), Italian, Syrian, or Lebanese ancestry.
*Highest % of Welsh ancestry. The Yankee settlers recruited them for their mining experience. Many shared a strong Calvinistic background with the Yankee establishment and had a strong influence on the early local education system.
*The most Catholic Metro in the state, roughly 2/3
*In the top 3 of metros where people were living here 5 yrs ago. (People here stay put as they do in Pittsburgh and Johnstown.)
For my fellow statistics geeks:
Population 2004 551,531 (In 1990 we had 575,322)
About 97% White
0.1% Native American
Top Ancestries for Scranton/W-B:
Other Ancestries 4.6%
Median Age: 40.7
National Average 35.3
Per Capita Income 1999: $18,014
National Average $21,587
Median Household Income 1999: $32,137
National Average $41,994
Educational Attainment MSA:
HS Diploma 81.5
College Graduate: 17.4
Now to be fair due to our large elderly population and blue collar roots this is the educational attainment for 25-34 year olds:
HS Graduate: Scranton/W-B 91.2%, National Average 83.9%
Bachelors Degree or Higher: Scranton/W-B 23.7%, National Average 27.5%
I would imagine the MSA average would be higher than the national average but I don't have that info. Thing to point out is that young people here are much more likely to finish High School than the Nation as a whole but far less likely to finish college. This is a blue collar leaning area atill and we have many good 2 yr colleges and trade schools, but we could use more affordable 4 yr college opportunities.
Jan 28, 2006, 3:10 PM
A setback for DT Scranton; Pity, cuz this was a particularly promising
circumstance. Now, there's just an unfinished (headquarters) building.
PG ENERGY DUMPED Southern Union pulling out of Pa.; fate of 420 workers hangs in limbo
BY DAVID FALCHEK STAFF WRITER
Southern Union Co. is out of Northeastern Pennsylvania and out of the state.
The energy company that called Scranton its home for about five months announced the sale of its local natural gas utility, PG Energy, and the consolidation of its headquarters operations in Houston.
Though about 20 Southern Union employees will remain in Scranton, the $16 million, still-unfinished building on Lackawanna Avenue will no longer be referred to as the corporate headquarters. Southern Union officials say they are seeking tenants for the building.
Meanwhile, its last tether to the region, PG Energy, is expected to be sold to Valley Forge-based UGI Corp. Holding Co. for $580 million in August, following regulatory approvals. Southern Union will use the cash to help pay for the acquisition of another pipeline company.
Former Southern Union chief operating officer Tom Karam, a Scranton native largely credited with luring the headquarters to the city, could not be reached for comment.
PG Energy serves 158,000 customers in Luzerne, Lackawanna and surrounding counties. Unclear is the fate of the utility’s 420 employees, most based in its PEI Center in Wilkes-Barre. UGI spokesman Joe Swope said the company expects to review PG Energy’s operation and said layoffs are possible.
“We are obligated to our ratepayers to operate as efficiently as possible,” Swope said. “We have to review the organizational structure at PG Energy and see how it fits with ours.”
Experienced PG Energy employees would have opportunities elsewhere at UGI, which will have more than 500,000 customers after the acquisition, Swope said.
Field operations such as maintenance and meter reading are housed in Wilkes-Barre and at service facilities in Bloomsburg, Archbald and Williamsport.
News of the PG Energy sale caught Steve Barrouk, executive director of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, by surprise when he heard it Friday afternoon, he said. It will take time to determine what implications the sale and consolidation will have on communities in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties, he said.
“PG Energy has been a good corporate partner, as has UGI, so let’s hope it all works out the best for everybody,” Barrouk said.
UGI is no stranger to the region, serving residents in portions of Luzerne and Wyoming counties with electricity, and the Hazleton area with natural gas. The company also operates a coal-fired power plant in Hunlock Creek in Luzerne County and houses its electric division in Hanover Township.
The acquisition of PG Energy customers increases UGI’s gas division by 50 percent. The company currently serves 300,000 from Carlisle to Easton and the Hazleton area.
The announcement of the utility sale and headquarters pullout was anti-climactic. The headquarters never came close to housing the 100-plus occupants promised when the project was announced amid fanfare in 2003. Then smiling public officials and business people viewed the headquarters as a catalyst for reinvestment in the city.
As the building took shape, Southern Union itself began to transform. Once an operator of natural gas utilities that dabbled in activities such as liquefied natural gas and natural gas transmission lines, Southern Union grew into a pipeline company of national and even international prominence.
In November 2004, a bankruptcy court bid led to Southern Union’s $2.45 billion purchase of CrossCountry Energy, an 18,000-mile pipeline network and the last profitable piece of the failed Enron Corp.
Soon after, the company began shedding legacy executives and board members — local people inherited from the old PEI Enterprises Inc. Others were moved to Texas. Eventually, the company even let go of Karam, credited as the architect of Southern Union deals.
Last month, the cash-strapped company announced it would acquire the Sid Richardson Energy Services Co. Already heavily leveraged, the company took a route it has taken in the past — selling one company to purchase another.
Long-time Southern Union watcher, equities analysts Gordon Howald of Natexis Bleichroeder, said the move was not a surprise. The company has edged away from utilities.
“They are moving into pipelines and they’ve indicated they would sell the utilities if they needed to,” he said. “Utilities have not been their favorite asset.”
Southern Union apparently got a good price, too. Acquisitions are typically based on multiples of earnings. Howald said the purchase price is about 11 times PG Energy’s earnings. Similar utility sales have been going for about nine times earnings.
Jan 30, 2006, 2:03 AM
I have a question about the area: does the Scranton/WB area carry the NYC channels, and do they have NY sports channels like MSG and YES??? And which teams are the people in the Scranton/WB area more loyal to, the Phila or the NYC teams??? I know that even though a huge majority of Lehigh Valley residents commute to NYC, they stay loyal to Phila teams. I was wondering if it was the same up there???
Jan 30, 2006, 2:30 AM
It's about half/half, I'd say.
BTW: To introduce myself. I have been living in Wilkes-Barre since 1999, also have been following these discussions for quite some time now, just never quite got to posting anything... until now.
Jan 30, 2006, 11:59 PM
What do you guys think about this Wilkes-Barre monster http://skyscraperpage.com/cities/?buildingID=45029
Jan 31, 2006, 12:55 AM
LOL you don't say much but when you do!! Happy that you've come out of hiding...spectacularly.
I'd say that Wilkes-Barre would be the envy of everyone^^....not that it isn't already :)
Jan 31, 2006, 10:37 AM
Well Vasiliy, seems like all of NE PA could fit into that rascal.:yes: :haha:
Jan 31, 2006, 7:19 PM
Great! The biulding just got deleted "because it was too tall."
May I point out that there are other fantasy/vision buildings in the database that are just as tall
X-SEED 4000 (4000 m.)
TRY-2004 (2004 m.)
Aeropolis 2001 (2001 m.)
The Illinois (1731 m.).
... and many more. Why is it only mine building being picked on???? I guess there goes a whole week of effort just for nothing.
Jan 31, 2006, 7:54 PM
It was fun while it lasted...and you did a spectacular job....
Jan 31, 2006, 8:26 PM
Maybe I can persuade them to have at least a scaled back version
Feb 1, 2006, 1:07 PM
I got them to downgrade it to 1000 meters (shame), so it should be up and running pretty soon.
On a completely different topic: Are people around here big fans of NASCAR? The insane gridlocks at Pocono Racewy, as well as extensive TV/Radio coverage the sport gets once the season starts got me wondering. Funny because everybody just can't wait 'till superbowl to see the football action. I can't wait for it because I know what's coming two weeks after.
Feb 1, 2006, 3:48 PM
Good work. ! ^^
Meanwhile back to the peanut gallery:
Business owners group remembers Mr. Peanut
BY DENISE ALLABAUGH STAFF WRITER
At Gallery of Sound stores throughout the Wyoming Valley, customers are asked to “save Mr. Peanut.”
Gallery of Sound owner Joe Nardone is one of many area businessmen trying to save the Planters office building at 632 S. Main St. in Wilkes-Barre.
Since the summer of last year, he has been selling “Save Mr. Peanut” wristbands for $5 each. He hopes the Planters building can be a museum instead of a mall.
“There’s another shopping center at the corner of South Main and Academy that is practically empty,” Nardone said. “Why build another one a block away? I just don’t understand it.”
The “Save Mr. Peanut” fundraiser was organized by the Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Development Corp., a group of businessmen led by Thom Greco. So far, about $600 has been raised, Greco said.
“We continue to try to make our case for the establishment of a museum and to save the building,” Greco said. “We can bring it to the attention of the people. The people have the power to persuade. I don’t know what kind of success we will have because the city already made the deal.”
Marvin Slomowitz, who owns Mark Development and Cross-Continental Realty, plans to turn the site into a mall. The facade will be saved, but the rest of the office building and the warehouse will be demolished in a few months, he said. Slomowitz hopes to create hundreds of jobs and help revitalize the city.
The development coincides with Planters’ 100th anniversary. Planters will start a nationwide centennial tour from May to September. If the tour comes to Wilkes-Barre, Greco is concerned the building will no longer be here.
Planters will dedicate a Mr. Peanut statue in Atlantic City in July. Greco wishes Wilkes-Barre also would recognize the American icon.
“It’s not just me. I’m speaking on behalf of a lot of people who love Planters and their rich history,” Greco said.
Greco and his group offered to buy the Planters building for $230,000, the same amount that city council sold it to Cross-Continental Realty on March 10, 2005.
Councilman Jim McCarthy, the only council member who voted against the sale, also believes it should be a museum.
“We should use Planters as a main attraction,” McCarthy said. “We have really nothing to show the great history of Wilkes-Barre. We want to pretend it didn’t happen.”
Mayor Tom Leighton believes if a historical marker is put up, it should be on Public Square, where Planters sold peanuts. He feels the only historical part of the former corporate headquarters is the facade, and that will be preserved, he said.
“I believe in working with the mayor, but I do differ with him that this is a historic place,” Greco said.
Italian immigrants Amedeo Obicio and Mario Peruzzi started the Planters Nut Co. in Wilkes-Barre in 1906. They set up two roasters in a $25-a-month factory space in Wilkes-Barre. Over the next 40 years, Planters grew to a $60 million business with 5,000 employees.
Greco once operated a Planters tribute bar called “Peanuts,” where people threw peanut shells on the floor. He owns one of the original cast iron Mr. Peanut statues from the top of the former Planters corporate headquarters and other memorabilia that could be displayed in a museum, he said.
Jesse Teitelbaum, executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society, said if the Planters office building cannot be saved, he is pleased that the facade will be preserved.
The historical society has tried to save many historic places in the city. With a small staff and limited resources, however, it has had many futile battles, Teitelbaum said. Planters memorabilia is displayed at the historical society’s office at 49 S. Franklin St., he said.
“The developer has his plans. The decisions are made,” Teitelbaum said. “He is going to bring business to Wilkes-Barre, which is a good thing. We win some. We lose some. In this instance, at least part of it will be saved, which is a good thing.”
Feb 1, 2006, 4:59 PM
Shame to see such a pice of history go down.
Feb 2, 2006, 8:49 PM
University of Scranton: New $30 Milllion Campus 'Center'. Well respected Jesuit school forges ahead......
New Campus Center for University of Scranton
Artist sketches shows the new campus center to be built at the University of Scranton.
Tuesday, January 31, 12:26 p.m.
By Andy Palumbo
The University of Scranton is growing again. The campus will have a dramatically new look about a year and a half from now. The big announcement was made Tuesday morning.
What are now two parking lots will be a new $30 million campus center by next fall. Administrators think the new campus center will mean a great deal to the university.
The center will be four stories tall along Mulberry Street.
Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Vince Carilli stressed the new facility is a campus center, not a student center. It's because it has something for everyone at the University of Scranton and even the people in the city.
"Our goal is to enhance the sense of community by getting people to interact in an informal setting and we think this building is designed to do just that," said Carilli.
It will have offices, places to eat, a theater and meeting rooms.
The other key to the project is demolition. The Gunster Student Center will be torn down. The building is nearly 50 years old and administrators said the 'U' has outgrown it. In its place will be green space nearly the size of a football field.
"We think we have the best of both worlds. We're an urban campus. We're proudly an urban campus. We love being in the city of Scranton. And at the same time, we'll now have a space in the center of the campus where our students can toss around a frisbee or a football, drink a cup of coffee and chat with one another and faculty and staff," said Reverend Scott Pilarz, University of Scranton President.
The mayor of Scranton was on hand for the announcement. He's thrilled with the project and he doesn't see any problems getting it approved by the city and the county.
Construction of the new campus center is scheduled to begin late this spring and be completed in the fall of 2007.
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Feb 6, 2006, 7:17 PM
An idea whose time has come....Maybe a Borders bookstore? Both of the city's campuses are within three city blocks ro Public Square, Wilkes Univ. to the south and west; King's College to the North and west; the other area campuses are never far by car.....
Posted on Sat, Feb. 04, 2006
Colleges consider combined bookstore Exclusive
LCCC, Wilkes, King’s have shown interest in a joint venture in downtown W-B.
By BONNIE ADAMS firstname.lastname@example.org
WILKES-BARRE – Three local colleges are joining the effort to bring a large chain-type bookstore and café to the Innovation Center @ Wilkes-Barre on South Main Street.
Luzerne County Community College President Patricia Donohue said representatives of Wilkes University and King’s College approached LCCC about creating a joint bookstore that would be accessible to students and the public.
“This would not be just another college bookstore. It would be a major business for downtown,” Donohue said.
Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry President Steve Barrouk said several vendors have visited the site and offered their plans.
Barrouk said the key to the joint bookstore becoming a reality is for the colleges to agree on common ground during negotiations with a vendor. “If that doesn’t happen, nothing happens.”
Barrouk said a bookstore in the Innovation Center could have a profound impact downtown because of its proximity to the Kirby Center and the movie theater, scheduled to open this summer.
Wilkes University spokesman Jack Chielli said the colleges previously discussed opening a joint bookstore. “They’re working really hard this time to make this happen.” Chielli said the goal for Wilkes is to have additional space for retail merchandise and trade publications as part of the public bookstore.
Barrouk commended Wilkes and King’s for developing their respective ends of Main Street.
He said a downtown bookstore would set the tone for the type of businesses the city wants to attract. He said the downtown can find its own niche. “There is no intent to compete with the malls.”
Crossing the sidewalk threshold that still spells out “Woolworth’s,” Barrouk opened the door to the huge Innovation Center interior he called a “white box” space. New, unpainted drywall covers the two-story high ceiling and walls in about 14,000 square feet uninterrupted by columns.
Escalators in the center of the floor last served Woolworth’s shoppers. Barrouk pointed to the wall where the lunch counter once stood and said he hopes a tenant will take advantage of the nostalgic value of the building.
He said the chamber would like to see the bookstore fill the first-floor and lower level of the building, totaling about 25,000-square-feet.
The Innovation Center opened last year at 7-13 S. Main St. It includes a businesses incubator for startup companies, a small-business development center and a Joint Urban Studies Center that area colleges operate.
Barrouk said the chamber has not marketed the Innovation Center’s first floor to other types of potential tenants. “We always felt it should be a bookstore.”
The Wilkes-Barre chamber is the umbrella group for several other organizations such as the Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corp., its primary realty organization. That branch is responsible for building industrial parks and owns the Innovation Center. Barrouk said the center is located in the Keystone Opportunity Zone that gives tenants tax benefits.
Wilkes University has a bookstore in its Student Union on South Street, and King’s opened a new bookstore on the corner of North Main and Union streets several years ago. Chielli said the university would likely convert the existing bookstore to some other use if it opened a new bookstore. King’s President, the Rev. Thomas O’Hara, was unavailable Friday for comment.
Bonnie Adams, a Times Leader staff writer, can be reached at 829-7241.
Feb 6, 2006, 10:56 PM
Go W-B, seems like a natural fit.
Feb 7, 2006, 1:40 AM
I'm a student at King's and I had no idea about the whole bookstore deal. Go figure.
Feb 8, 2006, 2:42 PM
Here's a very thoughtful, informing op-ed piece by Steve Barrouk, WB Chamber President centered around the need for a proper Museum in WB that would comprehend W-B and Wyoming Valley's historical context and national importance........there's an email address included for any of us to directly comment to Mr. Barrouk.....
I happen to think that a Planter's Museum could stand on its own...like the Crayola Museum in Easton if it had the backing/ dynamic programming of the Planter's Corp, which it absoslutely should.....
Mr. Barrouk's article follows here:
........................ Posted on Sun, Feb. 05, 2006 .........................
Mr. Peanut and other great artifacts of our significant past need a fitting home commentary stephen m. barrouk
MR. Peanut left Wilkes-Barre many years ago but remains one of the most widely known and appreciated corporate icons.
There is something about Mr. Peanut that warms the heart and takes us to another time. His birthplace on South Main Street will soon be razed for a retail center that will anchor the rebirth of the once bustling corner at South Main and Hanover streets.
The developer has promised to keep the façade of Mr. Peanut’s home. This gesture is a testament to our history. With the appropriate markings, it will become a tourist stop. However, many concerned residents want more than a monument to Mr. Peanut. Most agree that there is a story that needs to be told – a story of immigrants to the Wyoming Valley with a dream and determination to make that dream a reality. It’s a common story in the area.
Once they realized their dream, they gave back to their communities through various philanthropies. This story isn’t exclusive to the Obici family. The Kirby family left a profound mark – evident to this day. They directed vast amounts of wealth derived from the Kirby “Five and Dime” and Woolworth’s store empire to all of us. These families, and others, have touched lives throughout the Wyoming Valley.
There is a rich collection of stories that need to be shared. Many have stated in the newspaper that we need a museum – offering several buildings worthy of consideration. The Luzerne County Historical Society houses one on South Franklin Street. However it is under-funded with a large collection of artifacts, stories and images and insufficient facilities to display them,
However, museums are expensive to establish and maintain. I have great concerns about our ability to support one, not to mention a second one.
For some time, we at the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry have quietly proposed an idea to the Luzerne County Historical Society and community leaders – a new, re-energized museum. A museum situated along what will be a premier riverfront, attracting thousands of visitors to downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The chamber purchased the Sterling Hotel Annex building and made it available to the Luzerne County Historical Society. Together, we completed a museum feasibility study. Now historical society representatives are weighing what will certainly be an ambitious undertaking – giving this community a first-class museum.
Luzerne County has a rich heritage and our stories deserve to be shared with future generations in a lively, graphic and interactive way. We were home to Native American tribes. Our ancestors fought in the French and Indian, Revolutionary and Civil wars. We fueled the American Industrial Revolution with our anthracite coal and we continue to contribute to society in many productive ways today.
Mr. Peanut is the ideal corporate symbol of our community -- the product of immigrant parents who grew up in difficult times, persevered and ultimately succeeded.
His story is timeless. His story is our story.
That’s my opinion in a “nut shell.” Now, I welcome your thoughts. Please contact me at email@example.com.
Stephen M. Barrouk is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.
© 2006 Times Leader and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Feb 13, 2006, 11:43 PM
NEPA Rails to NYC inching along, inch by inch......
Agreement near on rail panel
BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK STAFF WRITER
Lackawanna and Monroe county officials are nearing agreement on forming a joint railroad authority — considered a key to restoring passenger train service from Scranton to metropolitan New York City, the counties’ chief negotiators said.
The Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority would accept and dole out the state and federal money needed to build Pennsylvania’s end of the estimated $350 million, 88-mile project and then maintain its tracks and equipment, said Dominic Keating, chairman of the Lackawanna County Railroad Authority, and Robert Hay, chairman of the Monroe County Railroad Authority.
“I’m very optimistic that we’ll be able to do it, to get it done,” Mr. Hay said Tuesday, a day after he briefed the Monroe County commissioners. “We do have one or two things they’d like to iron out yet.”
Mr. Hay declined to outline the outstanding issues. Repeated efforts to reach Monroe County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Donna Asure were unsuccessful.
Reason for optimism
Mr. Hay and Mr. Keating met last Wednesday. Mr. Keating was even more optimistic afterward. “We came to a suitable resolution, really, to the merger,” he said.
The two men confirmed Mr. Hay will be the board’s chairman and both counties will have four board members. They declined to comment on other details.
Within two weeks, Mr. Hay said, the Monroe commissioners hope to meet with the Lackawanna County commissioners and Andy Wallace, the director of the northeast regional office of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who has repeatedly secured money for planning the project, including $10 million in the current federal budget.
They hope to reach a final agreement then and have both counties’ commissioners form the authority by the end of June, Mr. Hay said.
One likely meeting topic is staffing, Mr. Hay said. The topic has produced some tension in recent months.
Hiring an issue?
On Jan. 13, the Lackawanna County authority board hired James H. Finan as its co-executive director.
Mr. Finan was county director of transportation services under the administration of Republican Commissioners A.J. Munchak and Robert C. Cordaro. His salary is $69,195.
Speaking before his meeting with Mr. Keating, Mr. Hay said the hiring of Mr. Finan did not sit well with the Monroe commissioners. In a Dec. 21 letter to Mr. Cordaro, they viewed the position as an unnecessary “make-work” job. It is unclear whether Mr. Finan’s hiring is still an issue.
Officials of the counties started talking about merging the railroad authorities in July. New Jersey Transit, which will operate the train to New York, wants a single government entity in Pennsylvania to oversee this end of the project.
Most of the 2,800 people expected to ride the train daily by 2025 are likely to be from Monroe County. Only about 45 daily are expected to board in Lackawanna County.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 14, 2006, 2:34 PM
^ seems that a direct train between Scranton and NYC woulc do nothing but help NE PA. The problem is how long it might take to actually get trains running. The last part of the article sounds like PA politics as usual.
Feb 14, 2006, 8:27 PM
^^^ So it would seem and yes...light years away..... *sigh*
and here's a fresh link to the ConCam from a fresh guy.....the new joint is lookin' pretty spiffy, eh? I see some of the facades have gotten their final surfaces....the rest are soon to be done...it should be operational in May or so..the theaters. Don't know about the residential lofts....
Feb 14, 2006, 9:55 PM
I was gonna say it looks like it'll be ready in a few months. Hooray for WB.
Feb 14, 2006, 11:05 PM
Wow... Not bad at all.
Feb 15, 2006, 2:30 PM
Here's project that needs to be pushed ahead, were it possible....Ironically, I'll miss the old roadway that it will replace and the curving descent into DT Wilkes-Barre and the views of the DT skyline from it...
Posted on Wed, Feb. 15, 2006
Coal street project
Improved roadway into W-B stressed
Access from W-B Twp. called vital to downtown growth; construction in ’08 possible.
By JON FOX email@example.com
WILKES-BARRE – Construction of a five-lane thoroughfare connecting Wilkes-Barre Township to downtown is still at least two or three years away, but business advocates have called the improved roadway crucial to downtown development.
State officials working on the Coal Street extension project expect environmental clearance within two months.
The project will then move into final design phase and right-of-way acquisition for several years before ground is broken, said Bob Doble, PennDOT’s district executive for design.
The widening of two-lane Coal Street and its extension from Wilkes-Barre Boulevard to East Union Street was pushed heavily by former Mayor Tom McGroarty.
The project was picked up and made a priority by Mayor Tom Leighton’s administration, Doble said.
“The focus was to get people to realize that they had a direct shot into the city,” he said.
Larry Newman of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry says the road project is vital to downtown, an important economic engine in the Wyoming Valley.
“It is absolutely critical for us to provide the best access possible from the region’s highway system,” Newman said.
On a typical workday, downtown businesses draw 14,000 employees to the heart of the city.
“That’s more than all of our industrial parks combined. It’s more than Tobyhanna. It’s more than downtown Scranton,” he said.
A five-lane artery into the city from Highland Park Boulevard could both spark downtown growth and turn vacant lands between Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue into developable property, Doble said.
“Transportation improvements don’t just facilitate transportation they facilitate development,” Newman said.
But while government and business officials pulling for a revitalization of the city center have something to look forward to, there are still a number of procedural hurdles to overcome.
Phase one of the work, which includes the widening of the road from state Route 309 to Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, also includes shifting the roadway north toward Coal Street Park.
That creates some complicated rights-of way issues and relocating a portion of the park, Doble said.
A small chunk of the southern edge of the park will give way to the roadway, and the park will be extended along its northern bounds.
“If we were taking property from the park and not being about able to replace it that would have become a very serious problem,” he said. “In this case we were able to trade off property.”
Closer to the township, Doble expects the expanded road to edge into the Interfaith Heights apartment complex.
“In this case there is difficult right-of-way acquisition,” he said. “There were some discussions of taking one or two apartments off the end.”
Officials expect construction on the extension to Pennsylvania Avenue to begin the spring following completion of the initial widening.
The $15 million project will be funded primarily by the state, with a 20 percent match from the city.
Feb 15, 2006, 10:10 PM
Yeah, the view from Coal St. is absolutely the best view of downtown I've ever seen.
Feb 16, 2006, 8:08 PM
This bodes well for DT Scranton: New stores in a revitalized, 100 yeaar old building, empty for a decade. A two level restuarant is in the works too.
Two shops to revive Spruce St.
BY STACY BROWN STAFF WRITER
A pair of upscale retail stores will be the first tenants to occupy newly reconstructed buildings on Spruce Street, it was announced Tuesday.
New Laundry, a contemporary boutique featuring women’s and men’s clothing and accessories, will occupy 1,400 feet of ground-floor retail space, while Poochie, a specialty store for pet lovers, will offer a line of pet accessories and supplies and occupy 750 square feet.
The two stores will occupy space at 410-412 Spruce St., buildings that are more than 100 years old and had been empty for nearly a decade.
“This project is a real success story for Scranton,” Mayor Chris Doherty said during a morning press conference. “This building was empty and delinquent for years and now it is beautifully restored and contributing to the vibrancy of downtown.”
A new ‘urban feel’
New Laundry owner Tara Tarapchak is “very excited” about the business opportunity.
“My store will be very contemporary and have an urban feel,” Ms. Tarapchak said, adding that she recently completed trips to Los Angeles and New York buying goods for the store.
Poochie owner Carinne Martini said her shop will carry a large variety of pet toys, snacks, grooming products and pet wear not found in regular pet stores. “The time is right for an upscale pet supplies store,” Ms. Martini said.
Ms. Martini and Ms. Tarapchak had previously worked at a local department store and both are expected to open their doors for business May 1.
Mr. Doherty said a two-level restaurant will also open at the site.
The Spruce Street buildings were owned by the Scranton Redevelopment Authority, which sold to a private development partnership made up of Scranton Insurance executive Brian J. Murray and three other businesses that invested more than $1 million to restore the structures.
“I’m a Republican and the mayor’s a Democrat, but I must say that Mr. Doherty has the city moving in the right direction,” Mr. Murray said.
The 400 block of Spruce is fast becoming a busy retail corridor, Mr. Murray said.
In December, Realtor George Semian occupied the first floor of the Mellon Bank building at Wyoming Avenue and Spruce Street, and with the new restaurant scheduled to open next month, Mr. Doherty said there is no more available retail space along the once-empty corridor.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feb 20, 2006, 1:17 AM
Imagine: "Wall St. West" for Northeastern PA.....
Response to sept. 11, 2001
Wall Street West plan hailed
The $15 million, three-year grant for NEPA’s proposal factors in homeland security and regional cooperation.
By RENITA FENNICK email@example.com
A proposal to establish a Wall Street West in Northeastern Pennsylvania caught the eye of federal government officials for two simple reasons: It was appealing on a national level and very practical.
U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Emily Stover DeRocco, in town Friday to discuss the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant, expressed her enthusiasm about the plan to develop backup operations to the New York financial markets.
“This concept stood out because it clearly responds to a national need and meets many requirements, including homeland security,” DeRocco said. “It’s very appealing and it’s also a very practical approach.”
Another plus, she said, was the regional partnership that exists among the economic, academic and business leaders in the multi-county region.
The $15 million, three-year grant is part of a new Competitiveness Agenda established by the Labor Department and introduced Tuesday night in President Bush’s State of the Union address.
Thirteen of the 103 proposals submitted to the Labor Department were selected for the federal funding, according to a Wednesday announcement.
The regional proposal, which encompasses nine counties including Luzerne, is the only one from Pennsylvania. Gov. Ed Rendell submitted three applications.
DeRocco, who toured the Innovation Center @ Wilkes-Barre Friday morning, spoke to a group of 120 economic, academic and business leaders at a luncheon at the Woodlands Inn & Resort, Plains Township.
“This is meant to bring about a transformation in the regional economy,” DeRocco said. “This will lead the region into a knowledge-based economy.”
She said the key to the program is training the work force.
“There are three parts to this and in my opinion the most important is developing a talent pool,” she said. “The others are infrastructure and investment, the availability of risk capital.”
Developing a talent pool, she said, will involve training unemployed workers, high school dropouts and workers who need to upgrade their skills.
“The educational institutions, including post-secondary schools and even K-12 will be affected by this, mainly with a stronger emphasis on math and science.”
The centerpiece of the infrastructure plan is establishing a broadband connection between New York City and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Gerald Ephalt, the Pocono Northeast regional manager for the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, said the impact of the plan – as far as the number of jobs that will be created and the monetary benefit to the region, could not be projected.
“It cannot be quantified because there are so many different aspects,” Ephalt said. “It’s probably a much larger impact than we can project.”
Ben Franklin has been designated the fiscal agent for the grant money which will be disbursed over three years.
A steering committee of 25 partners comprised of economic development groups, employers and academic institutions will implement the program.
The nine-county region encompasses Luzerne, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Wayne, Pike, Carbon and Monroe.
The idea for creating a Wall Street backup spawned from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. The Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency recommended that financial services firms have reliable backup operations outside of the New York power grid.
A task force headed by Penn’s Northeast, a regional economic marketing organization, prepared a Wall Street Business Continuity White Paper in 2003 that cited the advantages for locating secondary operations in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The report was the “springboard” for the grant proposal, said Susan Shaffer of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, one of the co-authors of the application.
“Ten years ago we didn’t have a collaborative effort in place to bring this grant here.”
The Workforce in Regional Economic Development initiative is a $195 million program introduced by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Thirteen of 103 proposals submitted for the funding were chosen.
Each is a $15 million grant to be disbursed over three years.
One of the successful applicants is a coalition of regional economic development, academic and business organizations in a nine-county area including Luzerne, Lackawanna, Berks, Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne.
The local plan is to develop a Wall Street West, a backup to the financial operations of New York City.
Other grant recipients are: Coastal Maine, Upstate New York, Piedmont Triad North Carolina, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Florida Panhandle, Western Alabama/Eastern Mississippi, North Central Indiana, Greater Kansas City, Denver Metro Region, Central/Eastern Montana, California Coast.
Renita Fennick, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7246.
© 2006 Times Leader and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
Feb 21, 2006, 2:21 PM
WIlkes-Barre's Mohegan Sun racino/casino. Phase I proceeding, you bet!
Mohegan Sun project keeping steady pace: Developers confident $47 M overhaul will meet first test on April 1
By: Tim Gulla, Staff Writer
PLAINS TOWNSHIP - As hundreds of workers from almost every skilled trade buzz around the property like bees, officials at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs are staring at the calendar, focusing on April Fool's Day.
At least a portion of the property must be ready for visitors come April 1, the start of live racing season at the harness racing track. As of last week, parking lots were covered with mud and some of the buildings weren't completely closed in yet.
Although it may be hard to imagine, given the current state of the parcel, there's no look of worry about the timetable, only confidence.
The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which bought the track from Penn National Gaming Corp., is in the midst of a $47 million construction and renovation project aimed at turning the track property into a racino, a combination horse track and slot machine casino. A state license to operate slot machines isn't expected until the summer, but the horses must start running on time.
The MGTA is no stranger to big projects or big ideas. Its Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn., is one of the largest and most successful in the world. And while its plans for Plains Township are nowhere near as grand, MGTA officials say the finished product will follow the flagship property's model for customer service.
About the only things that will look the same at the former Pocono Downs will be the oval track and the outside dimensions of the clubhouse.
Otherwise, patrons will see a completely new look.
"They'll know where they are, because we haven't moved," said Robert Soper, president of the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. "But I think they'll be pleasantly surprised."
A temporary measure
The scope of the project is indeed massive, but it's only part of the MGTA's plans. Placing 1,000 slot machines in the renovated track is a temporary measure. Construction of a 400,000-square-foot casino and entertainment complex, costing about $140 million, will begin once a slot license is approved. Since the state's harness racing tracks are almost assured a license, it's simply a waiting game.
Based on public comments from the state's Gaming Control Board members, slots licenses may not be approved until August, Soper said, though he and other MGTA officials remain hopeful the process will be expedited.
Most of the horse racing functions at the track will now be housed in the existing clubhouse portion of the property, which is being completely remodeled. Officials say a state-of-the-art simulcast facility, where patrons can watch races at other tracks, is being constructed in the lower level of the clubhouse, a space which has not been used for many years. The clubhouse dining area will maintain its shape and banked seating levels, but will be redecorated.
The old entrance to the racetrack is now gone.
Perhaps the most dramatic changes are taking place at the old grandstand portion of the track, where the grandstand roof was removed and a third flood was added to the building. Slot machines will be placed in the second and lower levels of the structure and casino offices will be situated on the third floor.
An entirely new building under construction next to the old grandstands will have one floor of slot machines and one floor for a food court.
Other changes won't be seen by the public, such as new storm water systems in the backside area, where the horses are stabled.
A little temperamental
Although construction has been going well, officials concede some issues have cropped up.
Pipes have been found where none were expected, as have electrical lines and even buried structures that harken back to the region's mining heritage, said Robert Becker,
See PROJECT, page 22
from page 3
construction project manager for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
With new construction, you start from scratch and have greater control. Crews on this project are dealing with buildings constructed in the 1960s, and there's little documentation of the changes made over the years.
Though the track has been closed to visitors since last month, the construction began last September while the track was still in operation. The potential for skittish horses kept construction crews and project mangers mindful of how their work, and the noise, would affect the pacers and trotters on the track.
None of the issues have been insurmountable, Becker said. He credits Keating Construction Management of Philadelphia, which is overseeing the project, with keeping things in check and on schedule.
A facility built by the locals
A look around the construction site shows the MGTA put great reliance in local labor.
Four of the subcontractors on site are from Lackawanna County and nine are from Luzerne County.
Panzitta Enterprises of Wilkes-Barre is doing concrete work. Mid-Valley Contracting and McGregor Industries, both of Lackawanna County, are working on the steel. Drywall and ceilings are being installed by Hopson Specialties of Kingston. J.L. Turner of Wilkes-Barre is working on mechanical and plumbing systems.
Highlighting the large scope of the work, Popple Construction from Laflin has laid down more than 10,000 tons of asphalt to date, including 1,400 tons - or 30 truckloads - last Tuesday.
A bonus to local labor halls, just about every firm involved hires union workers and there's a project labor agreement in place between the skilled trades and the MGTA that, in part, requires the use of union labor when available.
Some of the past few years have been lean ones for the building trades in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The projects that have gone forward didn't require much manpower or take long to finish. Now, the hundreds of tradesmen on site are helping construct an entirely new industry in Pennsylvania.
"I have about 30 people up there (at the Mohegan Sun)," said Joe Capece, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 163, and vice president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council. "If you build a distribution center or restaurant, you're looking at 6, 8, 10 people at most," he said.
Capece sees the Mohegan Sun project as more than a single job for his men. He sees the Mohegan Sun as a catalyst for more growth and development in the area.
Feb 21, 2006, 7:00 PM
New lease on life for Hazleton's (tallest) markle Bulding: First, a photo from old times:
and more pics of old, old Hazleton's heydey linked here:
Landmark thrives once again
Hazleton’s Markle Building, which fell into disrepair in ’80s returns to role in area commerce.
By STEVE MOCARSKY firstname.lastname@example.org
HAZLETON – Call it a tale of four Georges.
Nearly a century ago, Hazleton coal baron George B. Markle built the city’s first high-rise office building on the corner of Broad and Wyoming streets in the center of a bustling and growing downtown.
At about 200 feet, the building remains Hazleton’s tallest.
The Markle Banking & Trust Co. operated there until 1958, when it became Northeastern Bank and the building became known as the Northeastern Building.
The Hazleton landmark, which holds historical significance because of its architecture and key role in area commerce, fell into disrepair in the 1980s.
The building passed through the hands of a few unsuccessful developers and came close to being demolished after tenants followed a national trend of professionals abandoning downtowns for suburban offices and shopping malls.
Code problems and heating issues forced out the remaining tenants around 1997.
But hope sprung anew for the structure when George F. Hayden formed the Hazleton Development Co. and purchased the building in 2001. He renamed the edifice the Markle Building, just as downtown Hazleton began its economic resurgence.
Hayden totally refurbished the structure and installed state-of-the art communications, electrical, fire safety, security and heating, ventilation and cooling systems.
“We’ve pretty much taken the oldest building in Hazleton and made it the most state-of-the-art building in Hazleton,” Hayden said.
A multitude of government grants, the building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places and the designation of the building site as a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone aided the developers in their endeavors, in some cases with tax credits.
Hayden hired George K. Leitner to manage and market the building, naming him vice president. Leitner has managed to fill 40 percent of the building with 28 new tenants, recruiting eight in the last two months.
“We expect to be totally full early next year. Eighty-five percent of the tenants are new businesses, which is exciting. We brought new jobs to Hazleton. We’re even renting roof space to telecommunication companies,” Leitner said.
The KOEZ designation helped attract new tenants, and the site’s recent designation as a Keystone Innovation Zone will help draw more, Leitner predicts.
Hayden’s and Leitner’s enthusiasm about their project and their commitment to continued participation in downtown redevelopment was apparent last week as they boasted the building’s assets and explained why the Markle has attracted so many companies to the city – especially high-tech companies.
Old skin cloaks new amenities
Sitting at a small computer desk in his third-floor office last week, Leitner called up live video images from the Markle’s lobby and exterior on one computer monitor.
“We can add up to 32 cameras to the building,” Leitner said.
On a second monitor, Leitner opened a program that monitors and controls the building’s HVAC system. He could note the temperature in any office and adjust it with a few keyboard strokes, as well as program the system to automatically adjust temperatures for individual offices depending on tenant needs.
“I can see the same information from my house down in the valley and make adjustments from home as well,” Leitner said.
Only two of the 12 synchronized boilers in the basement ran on a chilly February afternoon last week because of a new efficient water-sourced heat pump system. Zoned controls save money on utilities, which Hayden passes along in lower rent to tenants.
“You’re not running the old boiler system where the whole building is hot,” Hayden said.
The high-speed, fiber-optic network that runs along Mine Street behind the building and into the Markle attracted tenants such as Convergence Communications.
“We manage radio communications (for industrial and public-safety agency users), some of which are interconnected via the Internet. We needed a place to monitor and manage these networks,” said Convergence general manager Robert Bartholomew.
“The availability of affordable, high-speed connections at the Markle Building … and the high cost associated with obtaining high-speed connectivity in the outlying areas made the Markle even more attractive,” Bartholomew said.
Leitner said the cost of a T-1 high-speed Internet line at the Markle is about one-fourth the cost of a line to industrial parks miles away because of the Markle’s proximity to downtown telephone company hubs.
Verizon Wireless and Radio Shack have also opened district offices in the building.
It’s just right
High-tech companies aren’t the only businesses that call the Markle home.
Katrina Lennartz, president of Katrina’s Travel Agency, said she moved her business to the Markle almost three years ago because she liked “the total package,” including ready-to-go office space and easy access to high-speed Internet service.
“It’s not too big and not too small. And I’m an established business, so I don’t have to be right on the street anymore,” Lennartz said.
Paul Penkala, who started up Allied Door Maintenance with business partner Suzanne O’Donnell two years ago, said they doubled their office space and hired four new employees in the past year.
“They basically built the space for us, brand new. The lease included everything we need. Plus, we get the (KOEZ) and we get KIZ benefits now, which we plan to take advantage of. We’ll probably need to expand again in two years, but we don’t plan on leaving the building,” Penkala said.
KIZ benefits – available to businesses in operation eight years or less – include transferable tax credits, preferential consideration for state loan and grant programs, stipends for internships and innovation grants to partner with regional institutions of higher education. KOEZ benefits give tax credits to building owners and tenants through 2013.
Ellen Morrell, owner of the Cyber Calf Internet café on the building’s ground floor, said she wasn’t really impressed when she first saw the space the Markle had to offer a couple years ago. But she saw the potential.
Opening a new business in the building “just felt right. With what the city has been going through, I wanted to be a part of that whole renewal,” Morrell said.
“I always wanted a coffee shop. When I left my last job, I wanted to create an atmosphere, a place for business people to get away from the office for a while, but still stay in touch if they wanted to. When Radio Shack’s (Internet) connection went down a few days ago, they were able to come down and tap into my free Wi-Fi,” Morrell said.
The fourth George
While the Cyber Calf and neighboring Quizno’s sub shop are popular with the downtown lunch crowd, Leitner said he looks forward to wooing an upscale restaurant to the first-floor space once occupied by the former Markle Banking & Trust Co.
Hazleton Development Co. recently began aggressively marketing the space because another development project right next door to the Markle is expected to be completed by April.
Enter the fourth George to this story – George J. Hayden – George F. Hayden’s father.
George J. and his wife, Florence, formed Citiscape in 2002, and acquired several properties west of the Markle Building. Construction of a retail/office complex abutting the Markle Building is nearly complete.
Citiscape’s 90-space lot will provide “exclusive, off-street parking” for Citiscape customers and restaurant diners.
A 35-space lot on Mine Street and the city’s 300-space covered parking garage just across Mine Street will accommodate any additional customer and tenant parking needs, Leitner said.
Leitner also expects the Markle Building development project will soon literally be “topped-off” with the opening of an extended-stay hotel on the sixth through 11th stories of the building.
Negotiations with a hotel chain are near completion, Leitner said.
Find out more about what the Markle Building has to offer and a list of tenants at www.marklebuilding.com . Read what the National Register of Historic Places has to say about the building’s historical significance at www.timesleader.com .
Steve Mocarsky, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 459-2005.
Feb 23, 2006, 1:37 AM
Since Hazleton has entered the picture albeit briefly, there's a possible deal with Archer Daniel's Midland for a 200+ job cocoa processing (and cocoa liquor) for Hazle Twshp. Jobs and investment always welcome news....
Hazleton has lost a lot of people over the last decades and became half
it's oooriginal size of 40,000 or so....
However, it has become a Mecca for hispanics from the NYC boroughs who've arrived and have begun buying & selling real estate like crazy, lifting real estate market out of stagnancy and into action. Whnever I read the property transfer notices published in the Wilkes-Barre papers for Luzern e County, I'm always impressed with the increase prices for Hazleton City these days....dramtic! There was also some talk among certain Hasidim from Brooklyn about creating a huge housing development and Hebrew schools, the works in or around Hazleton... Who would ever have imagined even that conversation?
Feb 24, 2006, 2:08 PM
Good new/bad news for others....WB getting a downtown dance club right off Public Square (That's Public, not Pubic): Some rightfuly fear liquored-up college kids.....lol.....
Also downtown business are proposing downtown improvement district similar to Lancasters for added cleaning, police etc. It has to be....or the 'renaissance' will falter....
Posted on Fri, Feb. 24, 2006
W-B OKs license for dance club
Operator of Flashbacks, a club in Scranton, hopes to have the South Main Street site open in June.
By JON FOX email@example.com
WILKES-BARRE – Louise Fischer asked members of council to imagine their parents or their aunts or uncles or anyone in their family sitting on a porch at Provincial Tower.
Imagine them enjoying their retirement and a lovely summer evening at the downtown apartment complex. She even asked them to imagine a gentle nighttime breeze.
“And all of a sudden you would be hearing the blasting of the disc jockey or the band,” Fischer said.
Fischer, who spoke out against a liquor license transfer for a proposed dance club at 12 S. Main St. at Tuesday’s council meeting, returned to repeat her qualms about sound leaking from the club.
The mostly older residents of the tower, who live just a few hundred yards from the site of the planned club, want to enjoy a “tranquil environment for their retirement days,” said Fischer, a resident herself.
Over concerns about parking and questions if a dance club is what the city really wants to see come downtown, city council voted unanimously Thursday to allow a liquor license transfer.
Council members Kathy Kane and Michael McGinley were not present for Thursday’s vote.
Steven Toomey, the owner of dance clubs in both Scranton and Binghamton, N.Y., plans to open a club playing music from the 1980s and 1990s. He has operated Flashbacks in Scranton for six years and hopes to have the Wilkes-Barre club open by mid-June.
Councilman Phil Latinski called the club a start for the resurrection of a long-struggling downtown. “This is a starting point; this is going to add more progress,” he said.
Citing the several thousand college students living downtown, Councilman Bill Barrett voted for the transfer. He said he hoped the city could cultivate more of a “college town” feel. “If we don’t capitalize on what we have, we are going to go nowhere,” he said.
In other business:
• Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting Diamond City Partnership’s plan to develop a business improvement district in downtown.
The district would be funded by a tax on commercial property owners and could provide additional cleaning services and security.
The partnership, a volunteer organization of business, political and nonprofit leaders, hopes to have a district in place by the summer.
• Council passed the first reading of an ordinance establishing a commercial building inspection program within the city. Inspections would be required yearly, and the mayor said there are no plans to hire additional building inspectors.
If additional inspections became a burden they could be contracted out to an outside firm, he said.
• City Administrator J.J. Murphy informed council that the police department is undergoing Taser training. The city has a single Taser, a nonlethal stun gun, which will be issued to watch commanders for their shifts.
Feb 24, 2006, 5:35 PM
^ i thought this nightclub was targeted at 30+ somethings...not necessarily college kids. in that case it would have a completely different impact on downtown.
Feb 24, 2006, 6:27 PM
There are likely at least 2,000 dormed college kids between Wilkes U. & King's College within 3 blocks of the new club and another 2,500 who commute, plus students from Luzerne Co. Community College, College Misericordia, Penn State Extension not far...some of this student poulation is very likely to drop by...some other newspaper accounts indicate the likelihood.
I can't say for sure what the outcome will be, but as a former student at Syracuse once upon a time......:)
together wiith this club, the new movie complex around the corner in the Northampton and Main project..there should be considerable new eneergy downtown. Hopefully it can be sustained with a variety of new installations nto offered by the malls to bring folks downtown...plus some badly needed cops & lights.... of course...
Feb 24, 2006, 7:49 PM
^ well, i'm living in pottsville now. maybe i'll have to make my way up to S/WB to check out the DT.
Feb 24, 2006, 9:40 PM
hmmm...well you could take a gander now, then make a return trip in six months or a year to see if things 'pop'; the cinemas won't open til May or so; dunno about the club, but, you're a skyscraper/city geek like all of us so you'll have a fine time driving around.....discovering whatever. Pottsville isn't far...I used to pass thru on the way to Reading to visit my relatives. You could even pass thru Jim Thorpe maybe, certainly Hazleton via 93, then hook up into WB via I-81 (beautiful vistas especially descending into WB in 81) then Scranton is only 20 minutes further on 81.
If you stay overnight you might see if there's a baby PENS hockey game at the Wachovia arena in WB; they have a website for Wilkes-Barre Scranotn Penguins.
BTW I think that Pottsville is a viusally very interesting place..all scrunched along the hillside......lotta old things, historic buildings....Pennsylvania to the core.....
Feb 26, 2006, 4:46 AM
^ yes i agree...pottsville is very northeastern PAish. you can definately tell it's in the coal region of the state. there a couple modern buildings downtown, most recently a four floor modern office building for Geisenger. but most of the city and county looks exactly as it did fifty or even a hundred years ago. the downtown along US 209 is a great blend of old and new.
i'll let you know if i make up that way anytime soon dony.
Feb 28, 2006, 1:19 AM
Today's "Times Leader" carries an articcle and a link to 9 photos of the U/C cinema project known as Northampton at Main.......
I can't say that this link will work beyond today.....
Feb 28, 2006, 2:08 AM
^^ In connection with the above, here's a fresh link to the construction cam...the facade has changed dramatically...
Feb 28, 2006, 7:20 PM
Jeez...DT WB is happenin'; Last week a dance hall, this week a big billiard/ pool parlor on Public Square in the former CVS drugstore building (ugliest pieces of crap known to man...CVS's). Seem that this cinema complex /lofts thing is in fact a catalyst for downtown entertainment/ retail renaissance....
Downtown pool hall expected to open in May
BY DENISE ALLABAUGH STAFF WRITER
Downtown Wilkes-Barre continues to rack up new tenants. The latest is a pool hall.
A new billiards entertainment center called “Campus Square” will open in May in the former CVS drug store on Public Square.
Professional pool player Peter Fusco will invest $350,000 to open the 10,300-square-foot center for amateur and professional pool players. It will include 25 pool tables and two ping pong tables.
“The kids need a place to go,” Fusco said Monday. “Throughout the years, people gave pool a bad name, but if you run a room right like we do, we never have any problems. It will definitely be an upscale billiard.”
Fusco will pattern the development after his popular billiard center “The Spot” in Trevose, northeast of Philadelphia. He formerly owned a billiard in Tunkhannock and often visits Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
“Since I’m a professional pool player, I travel a lot,” Fusco said. “I used to drive through downtown Wilkes-Barre when all the stores were there years ago. I know they’re fixing everything up now and I thought it might be a good place for a pool hall.”
Fusco has trained famous billiard players Karen Corr, who ranked second in the Women’s Professional Billiards Association, and Julie Kelly, who ranked eighth.
He will have a good break in Wilkes-Barre since his business will be located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone.
He signed a five-year lease to rent the space on Public Square from Humford Equities, owned by the Finlays.
The Finlays recently leased space in an empty building at 12 S. Main St. to Steven Toomey, owner of Flashbacks in Scranton, who will open a dance club featuring music from the 1980s and 1990s.
The billiard center and the dance club are aimed at adding a night life to the downtown and trying to make it more of a college town, said Robert Finlay, president of Humford Equities.
Fusco chose the name “Campus Square” for the billiards center because he hopes to attract students from King’s College and Wilkes University.
Campus Square will be a smoke-free facility with a snack bar and no liquor. It will have a sound system and interior surveillance cameras. The property already has exterior cameras.
For the first nine months, the facility will be open to the public and then membership will be required. It will cost about $1 for membership, Fusco said.
Campus Square will have pool leagues and a “Campus King and Campus Queen” championship between local colleges.
Steve Barrouk, president of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, is excited about the new downtown developments.
“Part of the strategy was to create an entertainment district in the downtown,” Barrouk said. “With the theaters, a dance hall and now a pool hall, this all seems to be consistent. What we’re trying to do is draw people downtown. I think we need a number of different amenities. Hopefully, some retail activities will follow.”
Mar 1, 2006, 2:10 PM
W-B group proposes downtown improvement
The Diamond City Partnership discusses business improvement district with city council.
By JON FOX firstname.lastname@example.org
WILKES-BARRE – The Diamond City Partnership, a volunteer group of business, nonprofit and political leaders, went to city council Tuesday with plans for a downtown business improvement district.
“It will make this city clean, and it will make this city safe,” Marilyn Santarelli, chairwoman of the partnership, told council.
Encompassing the core blocks of downtown – roughly bordered by River and Washington streets and Academy and North streets – the district would be funded by contributions of businesses, nonprofit organizations and by grants.
Eighty percent of that funding would then be harnessed to beef up the level of services provided by the city, representatives said. That could include additional cleaning of sidewalks and contracting for either off-duty police officers or a security company to patrol the district.
“We want to not only change the perception but the reality,” Santarelli said.
The partnership is only asking for council to pass a resolution supporting the business improvement district (BID) at this point.
Once downtown commercial property owners are contacted and an idea of what services the BID will provide has been hashed out, the partnership will return to council with a proposed piece of legislation.
The district, once it is created by an act of council, will be funded primarily by charging owners of commercial properties a portion of their property value. There are 347 commercial properties within the proposed district.
“This is something the downtown business community would like to explore,” said Larry Newman, an executive with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry and a member of the partnership.
He called the effect of BIDs on communities across America “nothing short of staggering” and said the district is the “logical next step” for the partnership.
Kelly Withum, the executive director of Lancaster’s Downtown Investment District Authority, said Lancaster’s version of a BID has transformed a 12-block area of that city.
When the project began in 1993, Lancaster’s downtown wasn’t what it is now. “There were so many empty storefronts, and it was not very safe,” she said. “That has changed.”
Representing more than 400 business owners, Lancaster’s district assesses a 1.99 percent tax on commercial property values and has a yearly budget of more than $300,000.
Of that, $90,000 goes to a contract with the police, who add an extra two patrol officers for two of the three daily shifts in the area. The district also pays to clean sidewalks, tree planters and bus stops, Withum said.
“Many people are like ‘What does the DID do?’” she said. “The thing is, if we went away they would find out very quickly what we did.”
Newman called Wilkes-Barre’s proposed improvement district a way for the business community to pool resources and supplement what is provided by the city. “It allows us to extend and expand the scope of the services that are being offered,” he said.
Santarelli said the downtown colleges have already signed on to the plan and that a district could be a reality by the summer.
“We are poised and ready to do this,” she said.
Mary Sherrick, with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center in Harrisburg, said improvement districts grew out of the redevelopment authorities of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In Pennsylvania, West Chester, Lancaster, West Reading and State College have all turned to business improvement districts.
“Erie started theirs two years ago, and they’re seeing a lot of success,” she said.
Council members applauded the idea of an improvement district.
Council Chairman Tony Thomas pointed to the partnership’s initiative as evidence of a downtown and a city turning the corner. Two years ago the fate of downtown was uncertain, but the close cooperation between Mayor Tom Leighton’s administration and council has pushed an agenda of revitalization, he said.
“No one is going to break us apart, and no one is going to take us down to what it used to be,” he said.
Mar 1, 2006, 2:35 PM
Wow, so much happening in WB, it's amazing. Sounds like the entertainment thing is working in WB. I know Joel Kotkin doesn't think it's a viable solution, but what the heck does he know.;) :D
There's a downtown BID in DC and it seems to be working quite well. The little touches sure help improve people's opinion of the city. Hope it works in WB too.
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