WILKES-BARRE — Artifacts have been removed from the Hotel Sterling and the condemned landmark will begin to come down Thursday, creating another historical void in the city’s downtown.
Adding to the emotion attached to losing the once-grand hotel will be traffic detours and delays, as the process to demolish the former hotel and clear the site will take 60 days or more.
Butch Frati, the city’s director of operations, said traffic patterns around the Sterling should continue, but as the work progresses, delays could occur. Frati said that as the wrecking ball hits, traffic may have to be stopped periodically to keep motorists safe.
“The current traffic pattern will continue until the building is down at least to a reasonable height,” Frati said. “At that time, and when it is deemed safe, the streets will be re-opened to normal traffic.”
Frati said that once safety is assured, Market and River streets will re-open to two-way traffic.
He said that although Market Street might have to be closed for some periods of time, it will never be closed overnight. “We want to let the public know there will be delays, and traffic may have to be halted for extended periods of time.”
Seek alternate routes
Frati advised motorists to find other ways in and out of the city until normal traffic patterns resume.
Liza Prokop, the city’s spokeswoman, said road closures and traffic diversions will follow the course of the demolition time line set by Brdaric Construction Co. and will be announced as soon as possible.
“We will do our best to limit the time of inconvenience for drivers. However, we must ensure the utmost safety for the public and contractors working on this project,” she said.
Prokop said historical items already removed from the Sterling have been taken to the Luzerne County Historical Society’s Swetland Homestead in Forty Fort. The items have been placed in the backyard of the homestead, where they will remain until a site to display them is determined.
Items for future display
Tony Brooks, director of the historical society, said it is hoped the items will be exhibited in any structure that is built on the site of the former hotel.
Until the site is developed, the public can view photographs, postcards, news articles and other historically significant items from the Sterling in a glass case set up on the first floor of City Hall.
The case will be transferred to the site of the former building within the new development to fulfill a condition of the city’s agreement with the Pennsylvania Historic Commission. The items being stored at the Swetland Homestead will also be displayed there, or incorporated into the design of any new structure built on the site.
“This is a sad situation,” Brooks said of the nearing demolition of the Sterling. “We’re losing a piece of our soul.”
Brdaric Construction Co. of Luzerne will be paid $419,000 to remove the landmark that opened in 1898.
On the day of the bid openings, John Brdaric, owner of the company, said it will take about 30 days to take the building down and another month to remove the debris.
The city took control of the building, vacant since 1998, in 2011 citing safety and financial reasons. CityVest, the non-profit owner of the property, refused to join the city and Luzerne County in the project.
CityVest tried to find a developer for the building and in the process exhausted its funding, including a $6 million community development loan from the county. CityVest is in the process of dissolving, but the county said it holds a lien on the property for the outstanding loan to CityVest.
To pay for the demolition, the city committed $260,000 in state gaming funds and received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to use Community Development Block Grant money budgeted for demolition of blighted properties.