Geisinger investing $9.4 million on Main Street; other projects taking shape

Last updated: June 28. 2014 3:49PM - 4808 Views
By Ed Ackerman eackerman@civitasmedia.com

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Wait. There’s more.

Despite the much talked about and quite visible rennaissance of downtown Pittston, the revitalization of the city is not even at its halfway point, former mayor Micnael Lombardo, now vice chairman of the Pittston Redevelopment Authority Board, told the Sunday Dispatch Tuesday.

And the recently announced news of a 17,000-square-foot, $9.4 million Geisinger Community Medical Practice building on Main Street, construction of which will begin in weeks, is only part of the next wave of development.

Geisinger Health System spokesperson Wendy Wilson confirmed Monday that Geisinger will construct a new facility on a site that is now a parking lot located on the west side of North Main Street, right across the street from the existing Geisinger Clinic.

According to Lombardo, there’s more to that announcement than first meets the eye. For one thing, he said, the facility will be under an arm of Geisinger that is taxable. “When it comes on line, it will generate, based on its assessed value, taxes for the city, county and school district,” he said.

Another reason “I love this deal,” Lombardo said, is that the existing Geisinger facility will remain and be converted to a pediatric center.

The new facility will be completely funded by Geisinger, Lombardo added, with no investment by the city, and could mean as many as 62 additional professionals working on Main Street.

Lombardo said in construction fees alone, the city could realize some $60,000 from the Geisinger project. This, he said, is on top of some $26,000 in such fees generated by the construction of the new Fidelity Bank on Kennedy Boulevard near First Baptist Church.

Lombardo called Geisinger “good stewards who care about the community.”

“In the early stages of talks, the Geisinger people asked us if we have any concerns,” Lombardo said, “and we told them some people on Main Street have weathered a brutal economic storm and we’d hate to see them hurt by this project.”

Lombardo said he was referring to Fino’s Pharmacy, which has operated in the heart of town for three generations, and Albert’s Pharmacy, which was opened in the past two years on South Main Street by a local native. “We explained how these two small operations have c0-existed in a town with two of the big box pharmacies, and they understood our point,” Lombardo said. “So they said there would be no pharmacy in their model for Main Street.”

Lombardo said the Geisinger project and the Fidelity Bank building, which is starting to take shape, provide examples of how the city plans to utilize income from new tax sources to deploy in the neighborhoods of the city. A five-year plan is proposed during which 100% of new monies would be used to enhance the neighborhoods. The second year, he said, 80% would be used for that purpose with 20% going into a reserve, or rainy day fund for operational expenses “down the road.” At year six, all money from the new construction would go to the general fund.

“I think that way, we get the best value out of what is happening downtown,” Lombardo said.

The two projects mentioned are in addition to other development downtown.

The Water’s Edge condominium project on Kennedy Boulevard may start to be occupied as early as October. “It’s completely under roof and they are starting to bring in dry wall,” Lombardo said.

The condominium project will bring 32 marketable housing units into the city. “That is the largest number of residences to come into the city at one time,” he said.

The former Penn-Park building, at the corner of Main and Spring streeets, is being completely refurbished. “I believe 47 of 140 new windows are going in right now,” Lombardo said. The building, once jokingly referred to as “Pittston’s first skyscraper,” will house residential condominiums and retail space.

A building at 107 South Main Street is being refurbished as part of what Lombardo called “Project iMpact.” The “M,” he said, is for Market and Main, the corner on which it is located. “The movie theatre will be located somewhere in there,” he said, “and we are talking about an open air theatre as well.”

Lombardo said some funding is in place for the next phase of Streetscape, a beautification project continuing from Market Street to Columbus Avenue. “The make-ready work is underway but we have to wait for the traffic signal at Market and Main to be done, and that’s a PennDOT project,” he said.

A project for the west side of South Main Street from the current Turkey Hill store to the Forks of the Road is in the planning stages and there is even talk of providing music or announcements along the entire length of Main Street via a sound system. “The infrastructure for that was included in the new street lights,” Lombardo said.

He also said he is optimistic about the proposal to bring an off-campus site of Luzerne County Community College to the city. He said results of an on-line survey to determine interest were “very positive.”

In addition, the expansion project at Pittston Memorial Library is scheduled to begin and there are various projects planned through the Redevelopment Authority’s Neighborhood Housing Initiative. One is the construction of townhouses on the former Ridolfi Dodge Sales and Service lot on Broad Street, which the Redevelopment Authority now owns.

Lombardo, who is known for making his points via song lyrics, said regarding Pittston he’d like to borrow from the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive and say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

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