Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Merry Christmas, Wilkes Barre! The Grinch That Stole The Hotel Sterling

Photo by Pete Wilcox, Times Leader Photographer Extraordinare

Merry Christmas, Wilkes Barre! That was the headline on a press release from Paul Kanjorski's office on 12/17/2004.

Development along the Riverfront is closely tied with the revitalization of the Hotel Sterling being undertaken by the non-profit community development organization CityVest, which Congressman Kanjorski helped to found several years ago. CityVest purchased the Hotel Sterling in 2002 and recently named three finalist architectural firms to compete to design the hotel's renovation into office, residential, and retail space. The renovation is expected to cost more than $20 million.

"Many of these projects have been on the planning books for years, but 2005 is the year we are going to see visible progress in downtown Wilkes-Barre with more than $100 million of public and private construction underway. As we look forward to a bright New Year, we should take a moment to look around at everything that is moving forward in Wilkes-Barre. We have a strong team in place, and we are doing some great things to improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in the City of Wilkes-Barre," said Congressman Kanjorski.

Uhh..Paully boy c'me here. Let's roll the picture forward to this article which appeared in the Citizen's Voice by DENISE ALLABAUGH on October 19, 2008.

CityVest, a nonprofit developer, still does not have a co-developer for the Hotel Sterling at River and Market streets, but the property acquisition, demolition and environmental abatement for the project has been complete, Rogers said. The riverfront project is capturing the attention of prospective developers and people interested in living in the historic landmark, he said.

After enduring years of decay and a close call with a wrecking ball, CityVest received a $1 million federal grant to purchase the once-majestic hotel at a tax sale in 2002 with the hope of retaining a co-developer to restore the building to its past prominence. Officials from the city, Luzerne County and Wilkes-Barre Area School District agreed to forgive $1 million in back taxes owed by the former owner.

CityVest also received $6 million in county funds and has a commitment for $3 million from the state. The county funds enabled CityVest to complete the property acquisition, demolition, environmental abatement and architectural work. Rogers estimated the entire project to redevelop the hotel could cost $24 million to $25 million.

Bill O'Boyle over at the Times Leader wrote a a similar article on July 30, 2008.

How about this press release from "Fast Eddy" Rendell dated August 2004.

The Governor also awarded $3 million in RACP funds for the redevelopment of the once prestigious Hotel Sterling, which is now vacant. The Hotel Sterling Complex, which is a designated Keystone Opportunity Zone, will include four structures totaling 180,000 square feet of commercial, office and residential space. CityVest, the Wilkes-Barre-based, non-profit residential and commercial development corporation, has already secured millions in city, county and federal funds and is anticipating immediate redevelopment of the hotel. Each of these projects brings promise of an attractive streetscape and revitalization to the downtown riverfront area.

RACP is a state grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, and historical improvement projects. The $640 million in RACP funding approved by the Legislature in July is a vital component of the Governor’s economic-stimulus package, which leverages $2.3 billion in grants, loans and guarantees over the next three years to generate an anticipated $5 billion in private-sector investment to help start new businesses in Pennsylvania and help existing companies expand here.
Where is the stimulus if there is no progress on the project?

So Eddy and Paully, let's talk about this money you've been handing out. Who is checking on the progress? If the money is not being used for almost 5 years isn't there another project worthy of funding? I'll give you one. How about the next phase of the Intermodal project in Hazleton? Shovel ready and instant jobs.

Ohh that's right. Republican Mayor, City of Hazleton. Democratic Representatives. Some bipartisanship. Only Obama should get that courtesy.

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