U.S. Senator Bob Casey Backs Community Development Funding

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey wants more money allocated to the Community Development Block Grant program to allow municipalities to decide what projects are most needed and have the funding to complete them.

During a teleconference Wednesday, Casey, D-Scranton, said the Obama administration has proposed cutting CDBG funding by more than $200 million this year. Casey wants the allocation to be increased in 2015.

“CDBG has played an instrumental role in advancing locally driven projects that create jobs and contribute to economic growth,” Casey said. “The cuts proposed in the administration’s budget could limit the ability of municipalities in Pennsylvania to complete economic development projects that are essential.”

He said he’s pushing for Congress to increase the funding.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1298260/Casey-backs-community-development-funding

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Wilkes-Barre Details Use Of $2 Million In Funding

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city’s director of Economic and Community Development on Wednesday detailed how his office spent nearly $2 million in federal money throughout the city last year.

The city receives three types of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Decelopment each year and is required to hold a public meeting to explain how the money was spent in the previous year.

Office of Economic and Community Development Director Kurt Sauer presided over that meeting Wednesday in council chambers. The spending is detailed in a Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report, which is available for review.

In 2013, the city received $1,563,671 in Community Development Block Grant funding, $112,690 in Emergency Solutions funding and $264,880 in HOME funding.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1222522/City-details-use-of-$2-million-in-funding

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Owen J Robert SD Loses $2 Million A Year Under Lowered Coventry Mall Tax Assessment

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SOUTH COVENTRY TOWNSHIP, PA— The Owen J. Roberts School Board unanimously approved a real estate tax appeal settlement with Coventry Retail, LP, that lowers the assessed value of the Coventry Mall from $98 million in 2012 to $23.2 million in 2014.

The reassessment will equate to a loss of about $2 million a year in property tax revenues to the district.

In addition to the revenue loss, the agreement is retroactive to 2012, so the district will have to repay mall owners $1,619,799 of taxes paid in 2012, 2013 and 2014. In accordance with the agreement, $650,000 of that will be paid in cash within 60 days, according to attorney David L. Allebach Jr., who represented the board on this matter. The remaining funds will be credited to the mall against future taxes,

District officials had anticipated that cost and have reserved the full $1.6 million, according to district Chief Financial Officer Jaclin Krumrine. Therefore, the district has the $650,000 on hand to pay back the mall owner. The remaining nearly $1 million will help balance the 2014-15 budget to make up for the tax credit the mall will receive during that fiscal year.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/social-affairs/20140129/ojr-loses-2m-a-year-under-lowered-coventry-mall-tax-assessment

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Westmoreland County Will Ask For $1 Million From State To Raze Monsour Medical Center

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Westmoreland County will ask the state for $1 million to pay for demolition of the former Monsour Medical Center in Jeannette, which officials say has deteriorated to the point it poses a hazard for pedestrians and motorists.

Jason Rigone, executive director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., will ask the county commissioners on Thursday to approve a business plan that will be submitted to the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program in Harrisburg by the Feb. 7 deadline.

The program is highly competitive. Last year, Gov. Tom Corbett approved 58 projects totaling $133 million across the state.

“It will be competitive going in for Monsour, but I think the state sees Monsour as a priority,” Rigone said.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/5465027-74/county-million-monsour#ixzz2rKuPVrIl
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East King Street Building To Fall For New Building To Rise

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The three story building at 26 E. King St. in downtown Lancaster has been a furniture store, a bank, and a drug store.

But in recent years, it has been empty and it has been neglected.

And, in the near future, it could be replaced.

On Thursday, members of the Lancaster city Historical Commission voted to recommend approval of plans to demolish the existing building and construct a new three story building in its place.

Read more: http://www.lancasteronline.com/business/east-king-street-building-to-fall-for-new-building-to/article_5fbf78ea-84a5-11e3-8553-001a4bcf6878.html

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In Search Of Progress, Downtown Wilkes-Barre Evolves

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA —In South Main Street’s first block, several storefronts are empty on the east side and recent demolitions on the other side have a dress shop waiting to reopen and a jewelry store working to re-establish itself.

Further down, the building that houses a longtime retailer has been sold and the former Bartikowsky’s building is expected to be soon owned by Wilkes University.

Changes have come to South Main Street — the city’s main retail artery — but sustained progress has remained elusive.

Jim Bellezza, owner of Bell Furniture at 95 S. Main St., purchased the building that houses the Outlet Army Navy Store at 113 S. Main St. for $159,000 on Jan. 3. An empty lot separates the two buildings and Bellezza plans to renovate the building and expand his business.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1112993/In-search-of-progress-Downtown-W-B-evolves

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Demolition Of Downtown Wilkes-Barre Buildings Begins

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — The landscape of the city’s downtown started to change this morning with the demolition of several historic buildings on South Main Street.

Shortly after 10 a.m. crews from Stell Enterprises Inc., of Plains Township, began tearing down the first of four buildings with the hope of saving two other buildings that are home to businesses.

Stell will be paid $194, 861 for the work to raze a cluster of properties , including three owned by the city, at 61, 71, 73 and 75 S. Main St.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/976972/Demolition-of-downtown-buildings-begins

Reading City Council, Administration Haggle Over Several Issues At Budget Meetings

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How essential are the nine full-timers and three part-timers that Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer wants added to the proposed 2014 budget, including a media manager, a post that was so controversial last year?

Does the city want to keep $500,000 on reserve yet another year for the Central Pennsylvania African-American Museum’s proposed expansion, or use that money to spruce up parks?

Is the city’s outside consultants’ report – on Spencer’s plan to shift the property tax to a land-value tax – an endorsement of that plan?

Should the city drop earned income and commuter taxes by 0.1 percent as planned, or keep them flat because of coming budget woes?

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=515907

Mix-Up In Payment Costs Reading $715,000

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City officials acknowledged Monday that a $625,000 payment from the wrong fund 10 years ago for the Sovereign Plaza project now is costing the city $715,000 in money it could otherwise have used for economic development.

Matthew Bembenick, administrative services director, also told City Council that the Reading Redevelopment Authority had a verbal deal, not a written agreement, on who pays back several loans from that project, so there’s little paperwork except for some 10-year-old emails.

“The documentation that exists from 10 or 11 years ago is spotty at best,” said Bembenick, hired last year.

He added that he’s spent countless hours trying to find what paperwork the city has.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=504622

Residents Of One Scranton Neighborhood Praise City’s Blight Removals

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kevin O’Boyle doesn’t own the empty lot alongside his home on Mineral Avenue in Scranton, but he is the one who takes care of it.

“I keep it clean because it’s next to my house,” Mr. O’Boyle said.

Other neighbors do the same thing, as de-facto caretakers of several vacant lots that used to have condemned homes on them in the tiny neighborhood called Sandy Banks encompassing Mineral Avenue and Barrett Court at West Olive Street near the Lackawanna River.

“It’s our neighborhood.  We want to keep it clean,” Mr. O’Boyle said of the community pride there.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/residents-of-one-scranton-neighborhood-praise-city-s-blight-removals-1.1538251

Changing Skyline: PHA, Homeowners In Stalemate Over Plans For Empty Public-Housing Tower

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kimberly Mathis put up with plenty when the public-housing tower that shadows her little Germantown street was inhabited, but things got worse after the Philadelphia Housing Authority emptied the apartments in 2011 in preparation for demolition.  The drug dealers, who had done a brisk trade inside the Queen Lane high-rise, quickly shifted business to the sidewalks below.  They even dragged a set of bleachers to a spot across from Mathis’ house, which she bought from Habitat for Humanity and shares with a disabled daughter.

That was the last straw.  Furious, Mathis says, she grabbed an ax and proceeded to hack the bleachers into firewood.  The dealers scattered like so many roaches, taking up new positions a block away.  She says her stretch of Priscilla Street has been dealer-free ever since.

If only getting rid of the notorious Queen Lane tower were as simple.

In the two tumultuous years since PHA announced plans to replace the graceless, 16-story misfit with 55 rental houses, the agency’s relationship with neighborhood homeowners has gone from bad to worse.  For a while, it seemed that the project would enable PHA, which is still recovering from the Carl Greene scandal, to showcase a gentler, more collaborative style. Instead, the agency now finds itself in the position of ramming through a problematic design.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20130816_Changing_Skyline__PHA__homeowners_in_stalemate_over_plans_for_empty_eyesore.html#VDGH3TPO8jgUeyys.99

Hotel Sterling Demo Could Change More Than Just The Landscape

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Ali Kazimi’s arrival at work was memorable Tuesday because the seven-story Hotel Sterling next door was almost entirely demolished.

“It was strange. You can see the eagles on the Market Street Bridge from our property.  We have a riverfront view,” said Kazimi, the third-generation owner of M. Abraham Importer on West Market, which opened by the once bustling Sterling in 1927.

Kazimi looks forward to losing that view to new development on the 4-acre Sterling parcel.  City officials condemned and demolished the former hotel and plan to seize the cleared lot from its nonprofit owner, CityVest, so the site can be marketed and sold to a private developer.

Read more:   http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/715688/View-from-River-and-Market-is-optimistic

Is Wilkes-Barre’s Irem Temple Next On The Demolition List?

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — At some point something has to be done with the Irem Temple, and Rick Williams and others hope it’s not torn down like the nearby Hotel Sterling.

Last week demolition crews razed a good portion of the rear of the hotel.

They’re moving to the North River Street side today to continue to reduce the landmark structure to rubble.  The hotel opened in 1898, and nine years later, the temple, designed in Moorish revival architecture complete with four minarets and dome, was completed on North Franklin Street.

Like the hotel, it’s been vacant for years, and architect Rick Williams fears its brick walls could be bashed to pieces by the steel buckets and blades of excavators, like those leveling the hotel.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/707441/Is-the-Irem-Temple-next

Demolition Work Underway For New U.S. Courthouse In Harrisburg

English: Photo of Ronald Reagan Federal Buildi...

English: Photo of Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse In Harrisburg PA Category:Images of Harrisburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cash may be short in some areas of the federal government – ask any worker dealing with mandatory furloughs at the midstate’s military bases – but work is finally underway for a new U.S. courthouse in Harrisburg.

That is evident in the dust and rubble at Sixth and Reily streets.

Demolition has started at the site.  The old Bethesda Mission building on the property was nothing but a pile of broken cinderblocks and splintered timber as of Friday morning.  Next to go will be nine row houses.

The razing is occurring three years after the feds chose the site for the project to replace the 1960s-era Ronald Reagan Federal Building at Third and Walnut streets in Harrisburg’s downtown.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/07/demolition_work_underway_for_n.html#incart_river_default

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Has Heard From Potential Developers About Hotel Sterling Site

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE —Mayor Tom Leighton called it “a historic day” for the city, but also “a sad day” for the community.

As workers from Brdaric Construction Co. began to dismantle the former Hotel Sterling,  Leighton talked about the future and the potential for the historic site located at a gateway to the city’s downtown.

The mayor said he has heard from potential developers, but he declined to go further, saying it was premature to discuss what might happen once the building is down and the site cleared.

State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, called the site “the most valuable real estate in Luzerne County.”  He said he’s confident the city will find a quality developer.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/703044/As-Sterling-falls-Leighton-keeps-future-in-mind

Pittsburgh Planning Commission Hears Of Downtown Demolitions, Plans For New Building Near Target In East Liberty

Locator map with the East Liberty neighborhood...

Locator map with the East Liberty neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The city’s planning commission has inched the Pittsburgh Playhouse a step closer to its relocation from Oakland to Downtown.

In a 5-0 vote, commission members approved the demolition of three buildings on Forbes Avenue after receiving assurances from representatives of Point Park University that everything possible would be done to preserve their turn-of-the-century facades.

Also Tuesday, the commission learned of plans for a new six-story office building in East Liberty across the street from the Target department store, the latest in a wave of development in the neighborhood.

While the commission had received letters from two people opposed to the demolition of the Point Park-owned buildings at 320, 322 and 330 Forbes, including the former Honus Wagner sporting goods store, members decided to approve the request based on assurances that efforts would be made to preserve the terra-cotta facades.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/developer-plans-6-story-building-near-target-in-east-liberty-696643/#ixzz2ZzOy1mpW

A Legend Will Fall: Wilkes-Barre’s Sterling Hotel End Nears

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre

English: Hotel Sterling, Wilkes-Barre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kurt Sauer will get a long-awaited birthday present next Thursday: The demolition of the Hotel Sterling.

Since Wilkes-Barre officials decided in January to bring the building down without the help of Luzerne County, the city had to start the process from scratch.  That meant Sauer, the city’s director of community development, had to fill out reams of paperwork – he points to a 4-inch binder chock-full of various documents – as he worked to get approval from various state and federal agencies.

So when Brdaric Excavating finally begins work Thursday, Sauer will be a year older and a step closer to finishing the job.  And the current chapter of the Sterling’s life, one filled with hopes of restoration and disappointing and expensive failures to save the historic building, will near a close.

John Brdaric, owner of Brdaric Excavating, didn’t respond to requests for an interview about the $419,000 demolition.  But Sauer and Butch Frati, Wilkes-Barre’s director of operations, explained how they believe the process will unfold.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/a-legend-will-fall-sterling-s-end-nears-1.1523678

Force Of Tropical Storm Lee Still Felt As 69 Houses Face Demolition In Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almost two years after Tropical Storm Lee, the cleanup continues as houses damaged by flooding along the swollen Swatara Creek and later bought by the federal government are being demolished.

During the past few weeks, local municipalities have hired contractors to remove the houses, purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency‘s Hazard Mitigation Program.  Buyouts from FEMA were determined by the cost of rebuilding the house and future flood insurance claims.

At least 69 houses have been targeted for demolition, almost all of them on land near or adjacent to Swatara Creek.  The total cost is $8 million with the municipalities carrying 3 percent, or $250,000, of the cost.

But the long-term effects of the demolition will be bourn by the localities, as the properties slip from tax rolls and elected leaders are left wondering what to do with flood-prone vacant lots.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/07/tropical_storm_lee_fema_buyout.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Harrisburg Strains To Eliminate Condemned Buildings; Residents Simmer Over Fire Hazards, Nuisances

HARRISBURG–In the 2000 block of Susquehanna Street, routine home maintenance included pruning a neglected tree to eliminate a ladder animals used to enter the upper floors of two condemned homes in the middle of the row.

It included dealing with encroaching mold from the condemned homes’ soggy beams.  It included adding boards at his own expense to keep out squatters, a neighbor said.

Harrisburg has about 400 vacant buildings whose status is considered “emergency” due to hazards and eyesore they pose or criminal activity they attract.  The city expects to demolish 35-40 this year — the most it can do given budget constraints and staffing shortages, said Robert Philbin, the chief operating officer.

“All I can tell you is the city is doing the best it can do,” he said.

Read more:  http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/07/harrisburg_strains_to_eliminat.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Lawyers Slam Demolition Work At Center City Philadelphia Collapse Site

PHILADELPHIA – Attorneys for four people suing over the collapse of a downtown building that killed six people last week lambasted the demolition work after surveying the site Sunday.

Lawyers and consultants walked gingerly on piles of debris, indicating to photographers and videographers what they wanted documented. Meanwhile, other consultants on a hoist far above scanned the site where a four-story building under demolition gave way and toppled onto an attached Salvation Army thrift store Wednesday, killing two employees and four customers and injuring 13 others.

Afterward, attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who said his firm represents three plaintiffs in lawsuits against the property owner and contractor, said his initial examination indicated that the building that collapsed had brick-bearing walls and wooden girders without steel support and should have been demolished by hand rather than using heavy equipment. In addition, he said, the backhoe appeared to not be high enough to pull the wall down on the side away from the thrift store.

“Of course, a demolition from the top down by hand would have been much more time-consuming and expensive but was really the only way to get this done safely,” he said.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20130609_ap_lawyersslamdemolitionworkatpacollapsesite.html#ibzXi0JbVdKrHgE2.99