Reading Gets In The Holiday Spirit With Parade On Saturday

Reading, PA – You won’t want to miss the big-time addition to this year’s Holiday Parade in downtown Reading on Saturday. And when we say big, we mean big!

Snowflakes the Snowman will be the first-ever huge helium balloon to hover along the parade route. Measuring 50 feet high and 22 feet wide, Snowflakes will be holding a large bright-blue snow star in his right glove as he makes his way down Penn Street on Saturday morning.

The annual parade will start at 9 a.m. at 11th Street and proceed down Penn Street to Second Street. Free parking will be available at all Reading Parking Authority garages except the Poplar and Walnut garage.

In addition to the debut of Snowflakes, a second, smaller helium balloon in the shape of an antique ornament will be part of the procession, according to Charles R. “Chuck” Broad, executive director of the Downtown Improvement District, which is coordinating the parade.

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Spencer Announces Plan For Reading Development Corporation

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

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

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer announced his plan Wednesday to form a community development corporation dedicated solely to the city.

He said that in the past Reading has not taken a unified approach to attracting development.

Spencer added that efforts to develop Reading historically have been carried out by state or county development authorities, where the city isn’t always the top priority.

He said recent efforts generated by the city, like the Main Street designation and the purchase of properties in the 400 block of Penn Street, will soon become the purview of the Reading Community Development Corp.

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Sovereign Center To Receive Larger Share Of Parking Funds

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

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

The Sovereign Center will get an extra $45,000 a year, thanks to the Reading Parking Authority’s agreement Wednesday to change the split of parking revenue coming from civic center events.

Since 2006, the authority has taken 75 percent of the revenue after expenses, giving the civic center 25 percent.

However, P. Michael Ehlerman, chairman of the Berks County Convention Center Authority that oversees the civic center, has asked that the parking board go back to the original split – the two sides each get 50 percent of the revenue after expenses.

The request came during a meeting of the authorities requested by Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer, said parking board member Lawrence P. Murin, who also is a special assistant to Spencer.

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Reading On Course For $35 Million Cumulative Deficit By 2017

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

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

Reading is on course to amass a $35 million cumulative deficit by the end of 2017 even if it raises property taxes by 5 percent a year, controller Christian Zale told City Council on Monday.

The budget likely will be $1 million short this year and $1.4 million short in 2014, but Zale said the city’s own fiscal cliff comes in 2015, when it expects a $10.2 million deficit.

That will be repeated in 2016 with a $10.9 million deficit, and again in 2017 with an $11.4 million deficit, he said.

“Now is the time to address the 2015 cliff, (and) also ensure future decisions do not exacerbate these projected deficits,” he said.

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Abe Lincoln Hotel Sold; $10 Million Renovation Planned

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It took more than a year and a half, but Reading entrepreneur Alan Shuman finally got what he wanted: The Abraham Lincoln hotel all to himself.

With settlement completed Tuesday, Shuman’s entity, Lincoln Hotel LP, paid $5.05 million to add the 104-room historic hotel to his downtown real estate portfolio. That figure includes about $2.25 million in real estate and the rest in furnishings, fixtures, equipment, contents and the assumption of debt.

Shuman said he plans a $10 million renovation, of which $300,000 has been spent.

His plans include restoring the hotel and its rooms, adding a pool two-thirds of the size of an Olympic pool and reopening the Abe Saloon.

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State Adds Extra Money To Reading Hotel Project

The long-planned 220-room Doubletree Convention Center Hotel on Penn Street has received a $500,000 bolster from the state.

The developers, led by retailer Albert R. Boscov, had applied for an additional $2.5 million state grant.

“The governor came in with $3 million,” Boscov said Thursday.

He said the project earlier had been approved for $14 million in grants from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, but the developers applied for more.

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Boscov Asks Reading To Take $1 Million Loan For Proposed Hotel

Retailer Albert R. Boscov, whose nonprofit Our City Reading is trying to get financing for a four-star Doubletree Hotel along Penn Street, asked City Council on Monday to approve a $1 million federal loan as part of the package.

“If you can help us here, I promise you a hotel,” Boscov told council members.

Council is slated to vote on the deal Monday.

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Reading Parking Authority Ousts Executive Director

Within minutes of taking their seats Wednesday, Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s two new appointees to the Reading Parking Authority voted with Chairman George Cook to fire longtime Executive Director Lawrence H. Lee.

“He’s not being removed for cause,” Cook said. “We just want somebody else.”

Cook said the authority is moving in a new direction to work more closely with the city, and wanted someone with a different set of skills.

He called for the vote immediately after opening the meeting.

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Jehovah’s Witness Conventions Boosting Reading/Berks Economy

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have since 2005 spent several quiet weekends each summer at conventions in the Sovereign Center, without any of the fanfare given the concert idols and hockey giants normally associated with a sports/entertainment complex.

As a result, they are responsible for half the downtown civic center’s $254 million economic impact over its first decade.

That’s the surprise coming out of a study released last week by Dr. Lolita A. Paff, associate professor of business and economics at Penn State Berks.

The 225,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who spent three days each at the conventions also spent nearly $111 million on gasoline, hotels (1,200 rooms a night), shopping and meals outside the arena from 2005 through 2011, Paff’s report said.

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