WILKES-BARRE — While construction continues inside the former Ramada Hotel on Public Square, the $16 million King’s College project has caused a temporary closure of a city street and the cutting down of a large tree.
City Council has approved a request from King’s to alter the traffic pattern on Bennett Place — a short thoroughfare that runs between North Main and North Franklin streets.
The two-way street now is reduced to one way from North Main to allow vehicles to access the Park & Lock parkade, or to travel through to North Franklin Street. Traffic entering from North Franklin can access only the surface parking areas adjacent to the parkade. Traffic can exit only to North Franklin Street.
John Panzitta, of Panzitta Enterprises, the company selected to do the construction on the renovation project for King’s, said his company submitted a plan to the city showing a requested temporary fence around the building in the interest of public safety.
Panzitta noted only the last portion of the easterly portion of the Bennett Place is closed.
“This piece of the lane only served as a drop off for the Ramada,” he said. “Traffic from the surface parking can exit via Franklin Street and traffic entering the parking garage can still enter via Bennett Place since the westerly lane is open.”
Panzitta said the street will reopen sometime in August.
The former hotel will become the home of the college’s physician assistant program and two other programs. King’s purchased the property at 20 Public Square for $2.7 million.
In addition to the physician assistant program, the building will house the college’s exercise science and the athletic training programs. There will be classrooms, labs, offices and a bakery/cafe. More than 200 renderings by local artist Sue Hand will adorn the walls of the first floor, depicting the history of the anthracite mining industry.
A large beech tree located in the courtyard of the hotel has been cut down to allow access to the Tiffany Room, which will become a student cafeteria, Panzitta said.
“Some 80 percent of the courtyard will remain and will be re-done,” Panzitta said. “There are two doors from the Tiffany Room that open to the courtyard and that area will become a service entrance. The tree was in front of those doors and it would have prevented vehicles from making deliveries. It had to come down.”
At a press conference in December, the Rev. Jack Ryan, King’s president, said the third, fourth and fifth floors will be mothballed temporarily. The sixth through eighth floors will become student housing.
The project will create 20-plus new jobs at or near the college, he said. Ryan said the college is underwriting the cost, but there will be private and public fundraising campaigns to help offset the direct cost to King’s.
Ryan said the plan is to have the project completed for the opening of the 2014 fall semester. He said up to 200 students will be housed in the building