Could The Mall At Steamtown Reinvent Itself With An Open-Air Market Atmosphere?

SCRANTON, PA — The Mall at Steamtown hasn’t exactly been running at full power lately.

But a couple of brothers have gone to social media to pitch an idea to put more firepower in the ailing mall, and the public is starting to take notice.

Scranton natives Michael Boyd and his brother George think creating a marketplace similar to the long-standing Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia could be the key to the city’s revitalization.

The downward spiral of the once-vibrant downtown mall has been apparent in recent years. A walk through the two-story structure on Lackawanna Avenue last week showed 47 active store fronts and 23 shuttered ones.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/business/151922265/

Report: NEPA Region Lags In Advanced-Skilled Jobs

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton area ranks near the bottom of the list of jobs leading the recovery that promise to revitalize the nation’s economy, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

The Report, “America’s Advanced Industries: What they are, where they are, and why they matter” looked at those jobs in the nation’s 100 largest metros and ranked Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area 92nd.

These important jobs are leaving the area, the report noted, with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s employment in advanced industries falling about 2 percent every year.

Many terms have been used to describe the important sector: high-tech, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and now “advanced industries.” What makes understanding the sector more complex is that the field cuts across 50 industries from certain types of manufacturing and energy to computer software design and health care. A STEM job could be found just about anywhere, such as a computer programmer for a trucking company.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/report-nepa-region-lags-in-advanced-skilled-jobs-1.1826843

Scranton Councilman Worries New Union Contract Ties Hands In Exiting Act 47

Scranton could have a difficult time shedding its distressed city status because of the pay raises and other perks in the revised police contract, a city councilman warned.

The city has until 2020 to successfully exit the state’s Act 47 financially distressed municipalities program. The new seven-year police contract approved by a split city council Thursday and signed by Mayor Bill Courtright Friday will hinder the city because the contract locks in pay raises and benefits beyond 2020, said Councilman Bill Gaughan.

He questioned whether the contract extension would “tie the city’s hands” by eliminating the possibility of negotiating in 2017 savings in a new police contract, while at the same time locking in raises and benefits a year beyond the Act 47 deadline of 2020.

Mr. Courtright disagreed that the contract extension will make it more difficult for the city to successfully exit Act 47.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/city-councilman-worries-new-union-contract-ties-hands-in-exiting-act-47-1.1825840

Error in Scranton Budget Puts Bottom Line Off By Nearly $800,000

Turns out Scranton didn’t balance its 2015 budget.

Through an error, the city budgeted $783,000 more in expenditures than revenues, city Controller Roseann Novembrino told the mayor and council. She said it needs to be amended to fix the mistake.

City Business Administrator David Bulzoni said he made an error while creating the budget by inputting an incorrect figure from one line item instead of a total number for that one line and three others in the same group.

The four items, which involve lease expenditures, total $833,082.87. Instead of inputting that total amount when adding up that section, Mr. Bulzoni said he used the figure that was above it, $50,000, which was only for the last lease in the group. That resulted in an understating of expenditures by $783,082.87.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/error-in-scranton-budget-puts-bottom-line-off-by-nearly-800-000-1.1821319

PennDOT To Study Creating Northeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority

Northeastern Pennsylvania public transit riders may eventually take buses directly between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, rather than having to transfer to a different bus in Pittston to make the trip.

Lackawanna and Luzerne County officials envision new travel options — like a direct bus link between the cities — among many benefits of merging several mass transit agencies in both counties into a single Lackawanna-Luzerne Regional Transportation Authority.

The state Department of Transportation hired consultant HNTB Corp. to study the move, which would create the state’s third largest transportation authority. The cost of the study was not available Monday.

If it happens, Lackawanna and Luzerne county officials foresee having more clout to attract state and federal grant money to improve Northeastern Pennsylvania’s transportation network for buses, the region’s growing rail industry and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/penndot-to-study-creating-northeast-pennsylvania-transit-authority-1.1819613

Movement Underway In NEPA Counties, Cities To Form Land Banks

When General Motors shut down factories in Michigan, the city of Flint lost more than 70,000 auto industry jobs, resulting in an exodus of residents from the 1980s through today that left the city with half the population of its heyday.

The crisis created a cycle of abandonment and blight that prompted the region to create the Genesee County Land Bank, which spearheaded several major redevelopment projects in the city’s downtown, sold 4,683 tax-foreclosed properties from 2004-13 and demolished 3,400 buildings.

Some public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania cities like Scranton and Hazleton have been thinking of forming their own land banks since Gov. Tom Corbett last year signed legislation enabling cities around the state to do so. Pittston and several neighboring Luzerne County municipalities recently created their own version.

“One issue we all face, that we really have a hard time fighting at the municipal level, is blight,” said Larry West, regional director for state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald. “We have buildings sitting there on the tax repository list that are boarded up or have burned down.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/movement-underway-in-nepa-counties-cities-to-form-land-banks-1.1806370

Boscov ‘Donates’ $700,000 To Scranton To Make Good On Mall Loan

Al Boscov gave Scranton Mayor Bill Courtright a check today for $715,173, to make good on a loan the city had given years ago to The Mall at Steamtown that went unpaid.

Calling the check a “donation” from Boscov’s Department Stores to the city, Mr. Boscov said he felt obligated to pay the loan back even though neither he nor his company is legally on the hook to do so.

The donation check is intended to replace a $612,480 loan that the city gave to the former mall owner in 2001 from federal funds that the city receives, as well as $102,693 in interest.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/boscov-donates-700-000-to-scranton-to-make-good-on-mall-loan-1.1795802

Man Charged After Yelling Profanity During Live Newscast

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

SCRANTON, PA — Scranton police charged a city man Thursday night after he grabbed a television reporter’s arm and yelled obscenities into her microphone during a live news broadcast.

Tyrone Parker, 18, 501 Madison Ave., Scranton, was charged with falsifying reports because he lied to police that he didn’t do it. He later recanted and admitted he grabbed WNEP-TV reporter Stacy Lange’s arm and said a swear word into her microphone during a live broadcast in Scranton. Mr. Parker went to a Lackawanna College dorm after the incident, which is where police found him.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/man-charged-after-yelling-profanity-during-live-newscast-1.1788073

Monday Update: Scranton’s Hill Secton Neighbors Want To Tackle Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Some Hill Section residents have an ambitious plan to combat ugly, vacant properties in the neighborhood, but their solution would need approval from city officials.

The Hill Neighborhood Association, a nonprofit with the goal of improving that section of Scranton, wants the city to turn several small, vacant properties over to the organization. On Thursday, Ozzie Quinn, association president, went before city council and asked that the city resurrect a vacant properties committee to review blighted properties and sell those in the Hill Section to the association for a nominal fee.

This summer, the neighborhood association approached the city about many of the overgrown, vacant lots they wanted to mow and trim back to respectability. City solicitor Jason Shrive told the association it needed to sign waivers and have liability insurance to work in the vacant lots.

The Hill group got insurance, Mr. Quinn said, but was then told it would need to sign right-of-entry agreements with landlords before cleaning properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/monday-update-hill-secton-neighbors-want-to-tackle-blight-1.1766117

Scranton Commuter Tax Struck Down By Judge

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton commuters will not have to pay a commuter tax.

Senior Judge John Braxton of Philadelphia issued an order today striking down Scranton’s commuter tax.

The judge dismissed two procedural objections made by petitioners opposing the commuter tax, but agreed that Act 205 doesn’t give the city power to exclusively levy a tax on commuters. The wage tax had to be levied on both nonresidents and residents.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commuter-tax-struck-down-by-judge-1.1762802

PA Oktoberfest At Mohegan Sun At Pocono Downs

Oktoberfest
1280 Hwy 315, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702
FRI, Sept 12 – (5 PM – 11 PM)
SAT, Sept 13 – (11 AM – 11 PM)
SUN, Sept 14 – (11 AM – 5 PM)

*YOU MUST BE 21 YEARS OLD TO ENTER THIS EVENT

PA Oktoberfest kicks off this Friday at 5pm and runs through Sunday! Ticket information here: http://bit.ly/1y5vZNp
PA Oktoberfest website: http://www.paoktoberfest.com/

Diversity Lacking In Scranton, Wilkes-Barre Police

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One.

That’s the number of racial minorities on the 143-officer Scranton police force.

Meanwhile, Scranton has morphed into a fairly diverse city in recent years.

The 2010 census reported the city was more than 5 percent black and 3 percent Asian. More than 80 percent is white. About 10 percent of the population is Latino.

With the mostly white police force in Ferguson, Missouri, making headlines while trying to quell protests from the mostly black town residents after a white officer shot a black teenager last month, the lack of diversity in police departments, and the problems that come with it, have been pulled back into the public eye.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/diversity-lacking-in-scranton-w-b-police-1.1748937

Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

Business, Workers Flee Electric City Taxes

picture-0571A decade ago when real estate up-and-comer Charles Hibble looked for a headquarters for his business, Scranton was a natural choice.

He invested $1.2 million converting an aging building on Penn Avenue into modern offices and apartments. Mr. Hibble accepted real estate tax and parking cost increases and the mercantile tax as costs of doing business. When city leaders began talking about a commuter tax in 2012, the owner of Weichert Realty Hibble & Associates reached his breaking point and moved out.

“I was getting pressure from my employees, who could work from anywhere — their homes or cars,” he said. “They didn’t want to pay another tax.”

Mr. Hibble’s move prefaced an employer exodus from the city. After being kicked around and eventually shot down in court, the commuter tax came back in the proposal of consultant Henry Amoroso, who cited a state law that allows municipalities to impose a commuter tax to bolster distressed pension funds. Scranton City Council swiftly approved the local income tax on commuters, which would cost employees earning $50,000 as much as $375 a year. Combined with a proposed increase in the emergency service tax – yet another withdrawal from the wages of commuters — the cost of having a job in the city has mounted.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/business-workers-flee-electric-city-taxes-1.1733479

Lackawanna College To Convert Downtown Office Complex Into Clinic, Classrooms, Cafeteria

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

In a property acquisition that will change Lackawanna College and bring life to a long-languishing downtown anchor, one of the city’s largest office complexes, Adams Plaza, will become classrooms, a clinic and a cafeteria.

Officials expect to buy the deeply discounted, 110,000-square-foot, two-building complex, more recently known as the Scranton Center, in mid-August. The college has ambitious, evolving plans to renovate the inside of the buildings into classroom and office space, a campus cafeteria and a community health center, making the property at Adams Avenue and Mulberry Street a town-and-gown nexus.

Just steps away from the campus and visible from his office, Adams Plaza would be difficult for Lackawanna College President Mark Volk to ignore, even as he resolved after his 2012 appointment to eschew debt.

“We weren’t looking for another building,” he said. “But considering where the college is going and how we can better serve the community, we started to think it would be great if we could get it.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/lackawanna-college-to-convert-downtown-office-complex-into-clinic-classrooms-cafeteria-1.1724063

Study: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area Is Tops … At Being Unhappy

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — Feeling a little down in the dumps?

Chances are you are not alone, according to a new study.

According to the analysis, co-authored by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region is the least happiest place in the United States.

Local psychologist Robert Griffin says there no need for a region-wide prescription for anti-depressants.

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/50014789/Study:-Area-is-tops–at-being-unhappy

Wiz Khalifa Taking Under The Influence Tour To Camden / Scranton

Editor’s note:  Don’t necessarily agree with some of his activities but it’s cool to see somebody from Pittsburgh love their hometown and be proud of it.  

Summer is Wiz Khalifa time. His tune “Shell Shocked” is on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound track. His new album, Blacc Hollywood, drops in August. And the rapper will take his third Under the Influence of Music summer tour through Scranton on Thursday and to Camden on Friday.

“I always wanted to make Under the Influence something to talk about,” says Khalifa, “not just the day after the show, but the rest of your life.”

He’s a Pittsburgh native. His 2010 hit “Black and Yellow” was a pledge of allegiance to the Steelers. “Eagles, Steelers,” he says. “You know there’s no competition. You already know about that.” But there is a Philly connection: his wife, South Philadelphia-raised Amber Rose. “My Philly girl,” he calls her. He and the model married in 2013 after their son, Sebastian, was born, and they settled in Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20140724_Wiz_Khalifa_taking_Under_the_Influence_tour_to_Scranton_and_Camden.html#sQPxiIK8oCy2WyV3.99

Arby’s Closings Leave Employees Jobless

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ashley Douglas was depending on her next paycheck from her job at Arby’s to catch up with her rent.

But the single mother of three children will have to find another way to pay her bills. Douglas, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, who worked at the Wyoming Valley Mall Arby’s, was among dozens of employees at six Arby’s restaurants in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania who lost their jobs when the businesses closed on Friday.

That was the same day the franchise owner’s Chapter 7 liquidation was approved in federal court.

“That was the only job I was working at for right now,” said Douglas, who is separated and raising her children, ages 7, 4 and 3. “I’m depending on that. I’m trying to find something else. I still owe my landlord the rest of the rent for this month … If I don’t get something to pay for my rent, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/302844/Arbys-closings-leave-employees-jobless

Massive Scranton Bust Highlights Flow Of The Heroin Pipeline

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Given a little more time, Dakeem Booker might have turned 2.6 ounces of heroin into $50,000.

The Lackawanna County Drug Task Force had other plans.

Mr. Booker, 28, of Scranton, was arrested last month at his Palm Street home and charged as a drug dealer. County detectives and members of the state parole office raided his home after a tip, detectives said. They found a digital scale, a revolver and countless wax sleeves stamped “Magoo,” a brand of heroin.

Scranton police have charged 713 people for dealing either heroin or cocaine since 2009, according to uniform crime reporting statistics.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/massive-bust-highlights-flow-of-the-heroin-pipeline-1.1722278

Boscov: Mall Price At Sheriff’s Sale Probably Too High

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Department store owner Al Boscov is unlikely to bid when the Mall at Steamtown goes on the block at a sheriff’s sale next week, saying he anticipates the asking price will be too high.

The businessman has been unable to strike a deal with LNR Partners, the real estate company representing the mortgage holder, to acquire the mall but hopes to renew negotiations if the lender finds no takers for the property at the sale Tuesday, he and his lawyer said.

“At that point, it would be just as if we were buying a property in a private sales transaction,” said attorney Scott M. Esterbrook. “The (sheriff’s) sale is not the be-all, end-all. It’s one step in the process, and where we’re at today is we just haven’t reached an agreement yet.”

The mall entered foreclosure March 7 after owner Steamtown Mall Partners defaulted on a principal balance payment of $37.1 million due last July on its 2003 mortgage, setting up the sheriff’s sale. Mr. Boscov is a principal in Steamtown Mall Partners.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/boscov-mall-price-at-sheriff-s-sale-probably-too-high-1.1718214