PITTSTON — Nearly a year after city planners scooped the first shovelfuls of ceremonial dirt for the River’s Edge condominium project, the structure is starting to take shape.
City redevelopment authority Director Joseph Chacke said construction is about 40 percent complete, with the fourth and final-story walls starting to go up this week.
The late winter and persistent freezing weather delayed construction by a few weeks, but builders are on track to finish by October, Chacke said Monday.
The $8 million project along Kennedy Boulevard near Cooper’s on the Waterfront restaurant is to include 30 residential units, most of them facing the river, and are to be sold with appliances and granite counter tops.
The units vary in size and cost between $110,000 for 720 square feet of living space and around $250,000 for the largest units at 1,520 square feet. Each unit has a balcony and 24 of them will face the river.
Ben Piccillo, a real estate agent with Century 21 Smith Hourigan Group charged with filling River’s Edge, said eight potential tenants already have made deposits, “and there’s still another floor that has to go up yet.”
Both Chacke and city Administrator Joseph Moskovitz have been fielding calls from concerned observers who are asking why the condominium is framed with wood studs instead of steel or concrete, they said.
Recent large building construction in Luzerne County has used the method, known as “stick construction,” including several new hotels along Route 315 near Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino. Building codes say a structure may be framed with wood if it does not exceed four stories.
“I know the architect knows what he’s doing; I trust the developer knows what he’s doing,” Chacke said. “It’s not just two-by-fours. It’s engineered and it’s built in such a way that it’s going to be a sturdy construction.”
Wood costs less than concrete form or cinder block construction, Chacke said.
The building will be equipped with a sprinkler system, fire alarms and concrete pads outside where emergency vehicles can set up in case of a fire.
Last year Pittston was awarded a blanket $5 million grant through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP, for an economic development project in the city.
Half of the money was set aside for a renovation project on William Street and the other $2.5 million was marked for River’s Edge.
The RACP grant comes with conditions. Of the most salient: all the other conditions must be met before money is disbursed.
Grimm hasn’t received any money from the state and probably won’t until the condos are complete, Chacke said. He had to secure his own financing through private loans.
A voice message left at Grimm Construction’s offices was not returned.
The grant has been awarded, but the redevelopment authority and Grimm must prove they met compliance requirements that include:
• Required contract bidding procedures;
• Using only U.S.-made steel;
• Meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements;
• Paying laborers wages as called for under the Prevailing Wage Act.
Chacke and the redevelopment authority are a pass-through for the grant, and none of that award money will remain in the city or will be used to pay authority employees, Moskovitz said.