Last updated: March 02. 2013 12:38AM - 2153 Views

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WILKES-BARRE — Butch Frati, the city’s director of operations, told about 30 members of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association on Friday that work on sidewalk replacement and other improvements around Public Square will begin in late March or early April and end in October.

Frati said the $1 million project — Streetscape V — calls for new sidewalks, landscaping and curbing and will begin near Rodano’s restaurant and end at North Main Street by Mimmo’s Pizza.

Funding for the improvements will be provided through a combination of federal and state grants, said Drew McLaughlin, the city’s administrative coordinator. Federal highway funds and a $600,000 grant from the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program make up the bulk of the project cost, he said.

“There will be no general fund money used in the project,” McLaughlin said. “And these grant sources do not require a local match.”

The city did secure financing for construction costs because the RACP program requires that expenses be incurred and then reimbursed, McLaughlin said.

Frati said the project is an extension of the completed four phases of the streetscape downtown improvement project. This phase will begin at Rodano’s and extend to the Kirby Center, then down East Market Street to North Washington Street. The project will then flow back up East Market, past the Geisinger building to the former bank on North Main Street.

“The goal is to have a uniform look to Public Square,” McLaughlin said. “The ultimate goal is to complete the Ramada side of the exterior of the Square and also remodel the public park space. The timeline for those phases is dependent on project funding, which currently has not been secured, but we continue to pursue avenues to get them funded.”

McLaughlin and Frati said the city will coordinate with the business owners to minimize the impact of the project during construction.

Frati also told the business association’s members that the city has decided to re-bid the demolition of the Hotel Sterling. When Luzerne County opted out of the agreement, he said, the city decided to seek new bids with the hope it could be done cheaper. The low bid received came in around $450,000.

The building continues to deteriorate from the inside out, said Frati, and while he feels it isn’t in danger of collapse, it must come down. “We have no other choice but to take it down,” he said. “We have to make that area safe; and when that happens, the city will have a marketable property.”

Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, told the group that the Hampton Park Building at South Washington and East Northampton streets is near completion. He said 13 loft condominiums will be available — three already have been sold.

Newman said a coffee shop, along with a physician’s office, will open on the first floor. He said two smaller retail spots are available.

D&D Realty Group of Scranton purchased the apartment building, and the $1.5 million improvement project is expected to add to the activity in center city spurred by another mixed-use development, University Corners, located a few steps away.

The condos will be priced between $135,000 and $210,000 and range from 750 square feet to 1,250 square feet. All of them have 12-foot ceilings and 8-feet-by-8-feet window openings. Finished units will have hardwood flooring, open floor plans and individual heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. The plumbing and electrical systems will be upgraded and a new elevator will be installed.

The association announced the dates for upcoming events: March 16, St. Patrick’s Day Parade; March 23, Easter Egg Hunt; and June 21-23, Wyoming Valley Riverfest and Dragon Boat Racing.

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