WB landowner: Hotel developer drops interest in former store site

By Jerry Lynott - [email protected]
The owner of the former Place 1 at the Hollywood store, located in the middle of the site proposed for a hotel and conference center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, said the developer no longer wants to buy the South Main Street property. Adjacent city-owned properties were condemned and demolished in 2013. - Times Leader file photo

WILKES-BARRE — The owner of the downtown property in the middle of a proposed hotel and conference center site said developer Sphere International LLC has terminated sale discussions for her land.

“Sphere said they’re no longer interested in our property and they don’t need it for the development,” Michaelene Coffee said Thursday.

Coffee co-owns Place 1 at the Hollywood, a women’s clothing store that formerly operated out of the building at 67 S. Main St., but has since moved to Scranton. Coffee is in business with her mother, Barbara, who is listed as owner of the property.

Coffee said she was informed of the developer’s change of plans about a month ago.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George also said he was notified by one of the developers that “they’re going to proceed without them,” meaning the Coffees.

The Coffee property was the final piece to be purchased for the high-rise project announced in October 2015 for the corner of South Main and West Northampton streets. Sphere had purchased the surrounding properties from a private owner and the city in 2016.

Last October, George said the developer was committed to the project, initially described as a 10-story high-rise estimated to cost $28 million. It included a 100-room hotel, four floors of rental units, condominiums on the top two floors and retail space on the ground floor.

Efforts to locate a current contact for Sphere were unsuccessful Thursday. It was not immediately clear what the project’s status is.

“I believe we verbally reached an understanding,” Coffee said of a sale agreement with the developer. “We were never successful in signing a binding agreement.”

Coffee said she still works out of the building that housed the women’s clothing store, and is going to decide what to do with it. “Luckily, I still own it,” she said.

Coffee moved the business to her Scranton store in 2013 after she was forced to close the South Main Street site because the condemned city-owned properties next door were in danger of collapsing.

The city hired a contractor for the emergency demolition of its properties at 61, 71, 73 and 75 S. Main St. But the Place 1 at the Hollywood and the former Frank Clark Jewelers building at 63 South Main were left standing.

Sphere International LLC, which listed a Flemington, N.J., address on documents filed with the Luzerne County Recorder of Deeds, purchased the 63 S. Main St. property for $265,000 in July 2016 from Ken Pollock Inc. It also bought six parcels from the city for $500,000 in November 2016.

The owner of the former Place 1 at the Hollywood store, located in the middle of the site proposed for a hotel and conference center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, said the developer no longer wants to buy the South Main Street property. Adjacent city-owned properties were condemned and demolished in 2013.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/web1_southmaindemo01-1.jpgThe owner of the former Place 1 at the Hollywood store, located in the middle of the site proposed for a hotel and conference center in downtown Wilkes-Barre, said the developer no longer wants to buy the South Main Street property. Adjacent city-owned properties were condemned and demolished in 2013. Times Leader file photo

By Jerry Lynott

[email protected]

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.