The New York Times Spends 36 Hours in Pittsburgh

Beyond Pittsburgh’s pretty downtown, transformation and momentum reign, with former industrial areas giving way to restaurants, shops and art venues.

Click here to watch the just under 6 minute video.

Powerful New Video Predicts Bright Future For Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh’s transformation from steel and manufacturing to eds and meds is a well-known story that continues to attract national attention, this time from Time Magazine.

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Wilkes-Barre To Become Owner Of Hotel Sterling Site Today

Wilkes-Barre will become owner of the long-troubled Hotel Sterling site today, which is expected to provide the stability needed to attract a significant project at the landmark site.

CityVest, the nonprofit group that unsuccessfully tried to redevelop the hotel that once stood there, also has formally dissolved, its attorney said.

The Sterling’s unresolved ownership ended up before Luzerne County Senior Judge Joseph Augello this morning because CityVest filed a brief asking the court to oversee disbursement of its assets.

CityVest had obtained state approval to dissolve because it is out of funds and not pursuing more projects, said CityVest attorney George A. Reihner.

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Lancaster City Alliance Economic Development Plan Looks At Whole City

The Lancaster City Alliance wants to see $1 billion in private investment in the city over the next 15 years.

It’s one of the many goals — both specific and broad — of the economic development strategic plan the alliance put together to foster the city’s growth over the next 10-15 years.

The plan will be released to the public Thursday evening at the Ware Center.

Bob Shoemaker, Alliance president, and Marshall Snively, its executive vice president, talked with LNP’s editorial board about the year-long process on Thursday.

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Gov. Tom Wolf Powers Up Conveyors At Opening Of New Urban Outfitters Fulfillment In Gap

If Gov. Tom Wolf wanted to see his campaign promises in action, he came to the right place Thursday morning, said Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne.

Jobs that pay? “You’re looking at them,” Hayne said at the grand opening for Urban Outfitters’ massive 1 million square foot e-commerce fulfillment center in Salisbury Township just outside Gap on Route 30.

The site will ramp up from the existing staffing of 150 people to 500 as the year progresses, and could reach 1,000 to 1,500. Standard starting pay is $11.50 per hour, director of fulfillment Carl Carbonell said.

It also exemplifies “schools that teach” and “government that works,” Wolf’s other two priorities, Hayne said.

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Council, Mayor Agree On Rules To Make Philly Developer-Friendly

A City Council committee on Friday moved forward a bill that would make Philadelphia more developer-friendly, and another to force earlier disclosure of money spent by super PACs during elections.

The development bill progressed after months of wrangling. If approved by Council and later by voters, it would create a cabinet-level department to take over functions now handled by a host of bodies that include the Planning Commission, Historical Commission, Housing Authority, Art Commission, and Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who introduced the legislation in September, said the new Department of Planning and Development would create efficiencies. During Friday’s hearing, he called the long revision process well worth it.

“It gave us an opportunity to not only come up with what I believe is personally a pretty good conclusion, but it gave us the ability to understand that this is going to be a working document,” he said.


Add $325 Million To Price For Philadelphia Gallery Makeover

The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust and the Macerich Co. say it will take $325 million in new investment to transform the Gallery at Market East into what they are calling Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.

That is on top of the $250 million already spent by PREIT to assemble what had been privately owned property in the project area, bringing the total development cost to about $575 million.

The rest of the area still owned by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority will be conveyed to the developers as part of the revitalization plan being reviewed by City Council.


Lancaster City Seeks Proposals For Bulova Building, Adjacent City Property

Lancaster city is formally seeking proposals for the vacant Bulova building and adjacent city-owned property in hopes of connecting a stagnant part of downtown.

The city intends to use eminent domain to take the Bulova building at North Queen and East Orange streets. That means the city would pay fair market value for the property and the building’s lien holders would then be paid.

The city issued requests for proposals on Friday.

Randy Patterson, the city’s economic development and neighborhood revitalization director, said the property is in a critical location downtown.

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Kennett Square Gets New, Refined Historic District

KENNETT SQUARE, PA – By a 4-3 vote, council Monday night adopted an ordinance that creates a new, expanded historic district, disbands the borough’s historic commission, and creates a unified Historic Architectural Review Board. The measure will affect every structure in the new and refined historic district.

“This is probably the toughest decision that we have made as a council,” said Leon Spencer, council president.

Councilors Geoff Bosley, Chip Plumley and Patrick Taylor dissented.

The ordinance is the result of a compromise from a previous proposed historic district ordinance that was more stringent and had two separate historic zones. That proposal was defeated last year.

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Officials Envision Reinvigorated Allegheny County Airport

The county airport authority wants West Mifflin’s Allegheny County Airport to be a destination — but not for commuter flights.

That sums up a meeting borough officials had Monday with new authority CEO Christina Cassotis that came 24 hours before a $1.5 million federal grant was announced for taxiway rehabilitation there.

“It was a positive meeting,” borough Manager Brian Kamauf said. “We discussed the history of the airport.”

It dates back to Pittsburgh and McKeesport’s window to the world between 1931 and 1952, when commercial service moved from West Mifflin to what then was Greater Pittsburgh Airport, now Pittsburgh International.

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Indicators Report: Economic Recovery In Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Region Isn’t Stable

PLAINS TOWNSHIP, PA — Wages remain relatively low in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and both need to work on more consistent long-term job creation and growth, said Teri Ooms, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development at Wilkes University.

Economic recovery in the two counties has been uneven since the recession hit in late 2007 and lasted until 2009. While the unemployment rate in the area has been dropping over the last few years, that was because those participating in the labor force decreased, Ooms said.

“The good news is labor force participation has finally begun to increase, more so within the past couple months,” Ooms said. “It is now at pre-recession levels, but the challenge we’ve had is post-recession. There have been too many peaks and valleys. We’re not stable.”

The region’s unemployment rate was among many issues Ooms and Andrew Chew, research analyst, discussed as they presented the institute’s 90-page Indicators Report for Luzerne and Lackawanna counties Thursday at Mohegan Sun Pocono’s convention center.

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Columbia Hopes To Land Downsized State Call Center, With 129 Jobs

A year after tabling a plan for a call center here, the state Department of Human Services now says it wants to put a smaller version of the call center somewhere in Lancaster County.

And even though the proposed call center has been shrunk by more than half, Columbia Borough is in hot pursuit of the venture, which would create 129 jobs.

Its Borough Council voted this week to spend $835,000 to support the effort of developer Bill Roberts to put the call center in a fire station at 137 S. Front St.

“Every now and then, when a municipality embarks on an economic development project, they need to be willing to put some skin in game,” said Mayor Leo Lutz.

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In The Lead: Carnegie / The Comeback Continues

Hans and Virginia Gruenert wanted to start a theater company when they lived in New York City. That’s where you’d do something like that.

But Off the Wall Theater Co. was destined to be born in Western Pennsylvania when Mr. Gruenert’s work brought the couple here in 2007. And after five years in Washington, Pa., they found a better fit in Carnegie.

Their decision happened to mesh with the borough’s trajectory of late.

The economic doldrums that gripped the region for years didn’t miss Carnegie. Then in 2004, when Chartiers Creek overran the business district as a remnant of Hurricane Ivan, dozens of businesses were damaged and many did not return.

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Downtown Pittsburgh Continues On Strong Growth Trajectory

DSC01801Developers announced about three dozen economic development projects totaling $526 million in Pittsburgh’s Greater Downtown in 2014, capitalizing on dramatic growth in recent years, according to a report released Thursday.

“With more than $5 billion of transformative investment in Downtown Pittsburgh over the last decade, Downtown is well-positioned,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the nonprofit Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

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Officials Hold Ribbon Cutting Ceremony In Norristown For 24 Townhouses At Arbor Mews

NORRISTOWN, PA – The ribbon-cutting ceremony was a casual affair at the 24-unit Arbor Mews townhouse project Thursday on DeKalb Street.

Nine of the 24 townhouses have been sold and two more are under deposit, said Sarah Peck, the president of Progressive Housing Ventures.

“We will have purchase settlements twice a week from mid-May to mid-June with the homeowners moving in shortly after that. Seven of the buyers are first-time homebuyers and four qualified for at least one grant to help with the townhouse purchase.”

Construction for the overall project is expected to be complete in late fall or early next year.

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Hazelwood: Almono Gives Neighborhood A Shot At Recovery

Salvation sits just across the railroad tracks from Alex Bodnar’s Hungarian restaurant on Second Avenue in Hazelwood.

It doesn’t look like much now, just acres and acres of vacant land, graded but idle. But the redevelopment potential of the 178-acre site has raised the hopes of the struggling city neighborhood.

“The good Lord is answering my prayer,” Mr. Bodnar beamed as he stood in the kitchen of his restaurant preparing a bowl of goulash.

For much of the last century, the Monongahela riverfront site has been closely tied to the neighborhood’s fortunes. For decades, the massive coke works that dominated the land brought prosperity. Jobs were plentiful and Second Avenue teemed with grocery stores, shops and restaurants.

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Lancaster Businesses Find CRIZ Paperwork Cumbersome, Time-Consuming

Downtown business people say they support Lancaster’s City Revitalization & Improvement Zone, or CRIZ.

But boy, they sure wish the paperwork were less of a hassle.

“The process is very painful,” said David Leaman, senior manager of finance for the Isaac’s restaurant chain, which has its headquarters and one of its restaurants in the CRIZ.

Moirajeanne FitzGerald, who owns Here to Timbuktu on North Prince Street, says, “The CRIZ paperwork is cumbersome. The directions are difficult to understand.”

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Progress 2015: Wilkes-Barre, Pittston Lead Charge In Revamping Downtown Ecomomic Atmosphere

Shopping outside from store to store has almost become a thing of the past in some areas. But don’t tell that to downtowns in the Wyoming Valley, especially Wilkes-Barre and Pittston.

Downtown shopping in both communities is thriving thanks to the advancements each city has made over the past several years. Couple that with the excitement and enthusiasm of business owners and residents and youv’e got a recipe for success. The success in downtown Wilkes-Barre starts with Public Square.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association President John Mayday, who is a resident of South Wilkes-Barre and does all of his shopping in the downtown area, said the excitement and enthusiasm is something he hasn’t seen before. And it can only get better, he said.

“New businesses are constantly moving in,” he said. “Our mission is to create the opportunities for our customers and residents to come downtown. They’re been absolutely well-received by the public.”

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Wilkes-Barre, Scranton Advance In The America’s Best Communities Competition

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have been announced as quarter-finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition.

Frontier Communications, DISH Network, CoBank and The Weather Channel — the competition’s sponsors — today announced that the two cities are among the 50 quarter-finalist communities that now have six months to complete their revitalization plans and compete for up to an additional $3 million to bring their ideas to life.

America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition is a $10 million initiative to stimulate economic revitalization in small towns and cities. Each community will receive $50,000 to develop comprehensive strategies to accelerate the revival of their local economies and improve the quality of life in their communities.

“I’m proud to congratulate our neighbors in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre for advancing in the America’s Best Communities competition,” said Elena Kilpatrick, vice president and general manager of Frontier. “This is also a great opportunity for Northeast Pennsylvania as a region to benefit from everyone coming together to implement plans that will enhance the total Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.”

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