Structures to be razed for green space, official says

Last updated: May 21. 2014 12:43AM - 4847 Views
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King's College has purchased these properties along West North Street in Wilkes-Barre.
King's College has purchased these properties along West North Street in Wilkes-Barre.
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WILKES-BARRE — King’s College has purchased three residential properties on West North Street as part of plans to create more green space as it redevelops the former Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Demolition of the three homes, which were purchased on Friday for $450,000, according to county records, is likely to take place in the summer or fall of this year, King’s Chief Financial Officer John Loyack said Tuesday.

The homes in question, at 35, 39 and 43 and 47 W. North St., consist of two single homes and a double-block. Loyack said one of the homes had been in use as a residence, one formerly was used as student apartments and half of the double-block home most recently was in use by the owners as student housing for a member of their own family.

The properties are book-ended by the former church on the eastern end and the Our Lady of Fatima Grotto to the west, with a rocky, wooded hillside behind the houses. Given that location, Loyack said converting the land into green space would be appropriate to the character of the area as well as providing a natural buffer for the college.

King’s acquired the brownstone church building in 2011.

“Ultimately, the church will be converted into usable space for the college,” Loyack said, adding: “We’d like the surrounding area to be renovated as part of that.”

Loyack said he expects the church project to be completed in three to five years, saying that officials envision use of the building for arts programs — which may include some performing arts activities, although the main theater space will remain at the main campus.

“I think it will be a flexible space, too,” Loyack said, adding that the ex-church potentially could provide additional meeting or gathering space.

Last week’s purchase is only the latest of several expansion projects announced by local colleges that included acquisition of off-campus properties.

In October, King’s announced that it had agreed to purchase the Ramada hotel property at 20 Public Square for $2.7 million as part of a $14 million renovation project to accommodate expansion of its physician assistant program.

Wilkes University in March announced a $3 million package of renovations that included a $1.2 million purchase of the former Bartikowsky Jewelers building at 141 S. Main St. to house administrative and student-services offices. As well, Wilkes revealed plans to create a South Main Street Gateway in conjunction with the Bartikowsky project.

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