Sections of copper roofing have been stolen from the 143-year-old Central Railroad of New Jersey station at the Market Street Square complex in Wilkes-Barre, officials said Thursday.
Graffiti also was painted on at least three parts of the historic brick structure.
“Unfortunately, the longer buildings sit unoccupied, the more prone they are to theft and blight,” said Andrew Reilly, acting executive director of the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard.
Reilly was informed the stolen roofing material was copper and believes the theft is “no surprise” because the city and other area municipalities have been battling copper thefts, he said.
An authority worker has been monitoring the train station roof and found no evidence of leaks as a result of the removed material, but temporary roof repairs might be necessary, Reilly said.
The authority agreed in September to invite interested developers to submit plans to purchase or lease the structure, because the authority has no money to restore it.
Prior county administrations had planned to allocate community development funding to outfit the structure for a senior center and other county-related offices. County Manager Robert Lawton advised switching gears in May, saying he would have a “difficult time” releasing a $2 million county community development loan fund allocation for a project that won’t create jobs.
The public request for developers is on hold until the authority completes an appraisal valuing the train station and 6-acre site, which also includes a strip mall, Reilly said. Developers would have the option to incorporate the entire site or only the train station in their proposed projects, he said.
Reilly and other officials determined an appraisal was worthwhile, he said, because government entities must try to receive fair market value when properties are sold. The appraisal should be completed in several weeks, he said.
“This way, developers will have all the information they need to put together a good proposal,” Reilly said.
The appraisal also will reveal whether newer, deteriorating train station additions have impacted its value, he said. If so, the authority might work with county officials to identify funding to remove the add-ons to make the structure more marketable, he said.
“It may make sense to do some light demolition to improve the overall condition before it goes out for proposal, but that will depend on the cost and availability of funds,” Reilly said.
The county gave the authority $6.1 million for the project six years ago — $5.8 million to buy the property based on appraisals and the remainder to start designing the renovation.
Authority officials years ago moved stained-glass windows and other valuables from the train station to another location for safekeeping.