In 2001, downtown Wilkes-Barre hit bottom. There was no reason to go there and the merchants who remained wanted out. Kings College and Wilkes University tried to keep students on campus and played down their downtown Wilkes-Barre locations. Now, on the verge of 2011, things are reversed. Businesses are relocating downtown, Wilkes and Kings proudly show prospective students downtown Wilkes-Barre and the downtown is now viewed as a “destination” by Wyoming Valley residents.
How did this miraculous transformation occur? Four community meetings were held which drew 1,000 people. These meetings spawned Diamond City Partnership, a public-private alliance for downtown revitalization http://www.wbdcp.com/about.htm. After years of hard work and “seed planting” center city Wilkes-Barre is “the place to be” again.
King’s College and Wilkes University have invested over $30 million dollars in downtown Wilkes-Barre by expanding and renovating their campuses. There are 6,500 students between both schools. With the abundance of clubs, bars, restaurants, stores, coffee shops, the Kirby Center and a 14-screen Cineplex, downtown Wilkes-Barre is a draw for students and residents alike. This renaissance is helping the recruitment efforts of both colleges and is attracting new downtown residents who are looking for city-living in a “walk to everything” environment. More residents downtown will help spur more economic development.
I think this line sums it up. A visitor at the Kirby Center was overheard saying “Wilkes-Barre?” “Who knew?”