34th Annual Dinner -The Northeast Chapter Pennsylvania Sports Hall Of Fame Set For October

The 34th annual dinner of the Northeast Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will be held on Sunday, October 2nd in the DeNaples Center of the University of Scranton, 800 Mulberry Street.  Cocktail hour begins at 4:45 PM with dinner at 6:00 PM.

This year the Northeast Chapter will induct 10 local athletes.  Tickets are $40.00 per person, $25.00 for children 10 years and up, and may be obtained by contacting Bob Walsh (570.346.2228) or Alice Foley (570.346.5796)

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33rd Annual Dinner Northeast Chapter Of The Pennsylvania Sports Hall Of Fame

The 33rd annual dinner of the Northeast Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will be held on Sunday, October 4th in the DeNaples Center of the University of Scranton, 800 Mulberry Street beginning at 5:00 pm.  This year the Northeast Chapter will induct 10 local athletes.

Tickets are $40.00 per person and $25.00 for children 10 years and up, and may be obtained by contacting Bob Walsh (570) 346-2228 or Alice Foley (570) 346-5796.

The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization.

As Scranton Parking Garage Costs Soar, Demolition An Option

Maintaining Scranton’s five parking garages would cost $26 million over 40 years, while demolishing one or two of the older structures that need significant repairs could drop that figure substantially, according to a new analysis.

A June 3 report by Chicago-based consultant Desman Design Management titled “Parking System Due Diligence Market and Revenue Analysis” is the latest step in Mayor Bill Courtright’s plan to unload the Scranton Parking Authority’s five parking garages — Medallion, Casey, Connell, Electric City and Linden.

The aim is to “monetize” through privatization, either leasing or selling, the authority’s underused, high-debt parking garages that have 2,659 spaces, as well as the 1,479 city-owned parking meters. The goal is to reduce the amount of SPA debt the city guarantees and covers in annual bailouts.

The authority retained Desman to assemble various elements of the parking system for evaluation by potential bidders on a lease or sale.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/as-scranton-parking-garage-costs-soar-demolition-an-option-1.1896326

Sky Zone Scranton Brings Jobs And Healthy Activity Into The Wyoming Valley

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania h...

English: Map of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania highlighting Pittston Township (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, PA — Trading in his cubicle for a trampoline, Jeff Bowne is combining business with his love of healthy living by buying into a franchise called Sky Zone Scranton.

Unique to Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park franchise established in 2004. In 10 years, the company has expanded to include 65 locations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia.

Bowne and his sister, Jennifer Crounse, and her husband, Michael, of Allentown, will be opening a new Sky Zone in late September at CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park East, 525 Keystone Ave., Pittston Township.

The next closest Sky Zone parks are located in Harrisburg and Lancaster.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/business-home_top/50085187/A-new-Pittston-business-give-residents-reasons-to-jump#.U-jeE_RDsxI

Scranton OKs Surveillance Camera Network

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously approved having the city create a community video-camera surveillance network at police headquarters.

Council voted 5-0, with President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Joe Wechsler, Pat Rogan, Jack Loscombe and Bill Gaughan all in favor, to adopt a resolution to apply for and execute a $146,390 grant for a “community surveillance network system” at the police station on South Washington Avenue.

Council also unanimously advanced on second reading an ordinance to create an account to process the grant.

The surveillance network would allow private surveillance cameras in the city, such as those at banks, businesses or colleges, to link to the police station. There, a wall of 32 video monitors will show live feeds from privately owned and operated surveillance cameras that already exist in public areas.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-oks-camera-network-1.1695262

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Steel River Playhouse’s New Artist Director Can Do It All

Picture 577Actor, director, producer, playwright, teacher — Steel River Playhouse’s new artist director Gene Terruso is comfortable in all those roles. But that was not always the case.

Unlike so many theater people, despite his mother’s unflagging encouragement, he was not dying to get on stage. In fact he studiously avoided it until high school.

Terruso grew up in a West Philadelphia neighborhood and back then, it wasn’t cool to be a theater geek.

Trying out for shows, “was not a manly thing to do,” he said with a bemused smile.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/lifestyle/20140125/steel-river-playhouses-new-artist-director-can-do-it-all

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Scranton Landlords, Homeowners And Renters Brace For Tax Hikes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

University of Scranton students Bridget McVeigh and Ashley Opalka are apartment hunting with two criteria in mind: proximity to campus and lower prices than the university’s dorms.

The pair were alarmed city landlords are poised to hike rents in response to a proposed 2014 Scranton budget that would raise property taxes 56.7 percent, garbage fees 68.5 percent and rental registration fees from $50 to $150 per structure and $15 to $50 per unit.

Landlord Carol Smurl said she tries “to be compassionate to the tenants because they’re on a fixed income,” but she and her husband cannot afford to absorb that kind of increase.

Normally, Mrs. Smurl waits until tenants move out to raise the rent or tries to delay passing increased costs on for two to three years at her nine properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-landlords-homeowners-and-renters-brace-for-tax-hikes-1.1590772

Report: NEPA Economy Is Turning Around

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)

The 2013 annual report by The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development indicates Northeastern Pennsylvania is showing signs of an economic turnaround.

The eighth annual Indicators Report, to be released and discussed at a forum Thursday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, tracks the region’s performance on an array of categories, including demographics, public safety, jobs and the economy.

“The annual Indicators Report serves as a yardstick for measuring growth and trends in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Patrick Leahy, Wilkes University president and chairman of the institute, which is a partnership among Keystone College, King’s College, Luzerne County Community College, Marywood University, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, The University of Scranton, and is owned and managed by Wilkes.

Reports covering more than 120 indicators for Lackawanna and Luzerne counties, as well as statewide data, will be discussed next week.  And reports from the institute’s five task forces also will be provided to show data on health and health care, jobs and the local economy, education, housing, transportation and land use.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/523150/Report-NEPA-economy-is-turning-around

New Program Brings Local Interns To Downtown Scranton Businesses

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Local talent meets opportunity

Students at local colleges shouldn’t have to go out of town to get professional experience as interns, and local business needn’t look further than local institutions to get the talent they need.

That was the consensus of a group of business, college and government leaders who Monday announced the Small Business Internship Initiative to connect students and downtown business, a program they hope will expand to a multi-county area.

“If you look at the diversity of the higher education institutions in our area – there is no skill a business can not find,” said Gerald C. Zaboski of the University of Scranton, after a news conference on Courthouse Square announcing the pilot program.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/new-program-brings-local-interns-to-downtown-businesses-1.1484808

Scranton To Host ‘The Office’ Wrap Party

English: Logo of the fictitious Dunder Mifflin...

English: Logo of the fictitious Dunder Mifflin paper company. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The paper-pushers of Dunder Mifflin will make one last stop in Scranton before closing their doors next month.

The Office” Wrap Party will celebrate the upcoming conclusion of the Scranton-set television show with several activities throughout the city on Saturday, May 4.  The event was announced between the seventh and eight innings of Thursday’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders game.

A group of cast and crew members from the show – which ends its nine-year run on NBC on Thursday, May 16 – are expected to attend.  An official announcement about who will participate will come next Thursday, said Timothy L. Holmes, regional director of marketing & events for Times-Shamrock Communications.

“We do know there’s definitely a strong contingent of writers and cast members coming out,” he said.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-to-host-the-office-wrap-party-1.1468059

Scranton Is A ‘Hot Commodity’ For Downtown Residential Housing

Scranton‘s financial house may be in disorder, but the downtown residential boom continues to build momentum.

More than $11.3 million in three ongoing developments will add 74 apartments to Central City by next summer.

“Scranton is a hot commodity,” said Charlie Jefferson, an investor in the $8.6 million redevelopment of the Scranton Chamber of Commerce Building at Mulberry Street and North Washington Avenue.

Scranton’s municipal government is facing a credit crisis and recently borrowed $6.25 million to cover short-term financial obligations.  City residents could face potential tax increases of 39 to 79 percent – or more – over the next three years.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-is-a-hot-commodity-for-downtown-residential-housing-1.1377909

Scranton City Council Threatens University Of Scranton With Zoning Roadblocks

Editor’s note:  This is just irresponsible and shortsighted.  The University of Scranton brings jobs, money and prestige to Scranton; as well as a reason to go downtown.  Scranton City Council needs to get their act together instead of retaliating against a good corporate citizen.

Miffed over the University of Scranton’s recent lawsuit against the city over its new parking tax, city council on Thursday threatened to oppose any zoning variance that the college may need from the city for various improvements, such as dorms or parking lots.

Asked by council President Janet Evans to address this issue, council solicitor Boyd Hughes said he was dismayed that the university sued the city over the parking tax, because over the years the city has facilitated the university’s growth.  Rather, the college should be donating millions of dollars to the city, he said.

The university’s growth since the 1960s stemmed from what was known as the “University Plan” approved many years ago by the Scranton Redevelopment Authority, which involved the SRA condemning properties for university expansion, he said.  But the college has since spread beyond its “institutional district” into residential areas, Mr. Hughes claimed.

The university has received variances from the city zoning board for improvements such as a dorm and parking areas in residential areas that “should have never been granted” by the zoning board.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-city-council-threatens-university-of-scranton-with-zoning-roadblocks-1.1376796

University Of Scranton Refuses To Pay New City Parking Tax

The University of Scranton is suing the city over a new tax city officials enacted this year on parking garages and parking lots and is refusing to pay it until a judge weighs in.

The university filed suit in Lackawanna County Court on Friday, asking a judge to declare the university – a nonprofit – exempt from the city’s 15 percent tax on parking facilities where patrons pay to park.

City officials have said the tax is critical to bringing in more revenue for the financially distressed city.  Council’s 2012 budget estimates the tax will bring in $500,000.

If a judge ruled in the university’s favor, city Business Administrator Ryan McGowan said the city would lose out on a “substantial amount” of revenue from the tax.  He could not immediately provide specific numbers when contacted about the suit Friday afternoon.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/university-of-scranton-refuses-to-pay-new-city-parking-tax-1.1369775

Commonwealth Medical College Taken Off Probation

The Commonwealth Medical College moved a step closer to full accreditation on Thursday when it announced the national medical school accrediting body has lifted the college’s probationary status and granted it provisional accreditation.

The advance comes a year after the Liaison Committee for Medical Education placed the school on probation largely because of concerns about its financial stability.

With the new status – a rung higher than the school’s preliminary accreditation before the probation period – the accrediting body also determined that the college has the resources to expand its class size from 65 to 100 medical degree students beginning in 2013.

“This is an external statement by an accrediting body that this school is solid,” Lois Margaret Nora, M.D., the college’s interim president and dean, said. “For anyone who has any questions about permanence, this is just a major statement.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/commonwealth-medical-college-taken-off-probation-1.1329922

NEPA Higher Education Institutions Prosper Despite Economic Uncertainly

Brennan Hall, University of Scranton, at Scran...

Image via Wikipedia

Institutions of higher learning in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Metropolitan Area are thriving.  Even during hard economic times.

The University of Scranton set an all-time undergraduate enrollment record this fall with 1,059 students enrolled.  The university received 9,045 applicants – the largest pool of applicants in the school’s history!

King’s College saw a record number of new students enrolling for the fall semester.  The school’s full-time enrollment of 2,025 sets a record as well as receiving a record number of applicants (2565).

Wilkes University will welcome 570 freshmen this fall, up from 497 last year.  The enrollment this fall will tie for the second highest number of students in the school’s history.

Keystone College will welcome 1400 full-time and 400 part-time students this fall.  The highest enrollment since the school’s founding.  330 new freshmen will swell the student body.  Over 500 students will be living on campus this year, a record number.

Marywood University will have 1,100 students living on campus this year after constructing three new dormitories. This is the most students to have ever lived on campus.

Misericordia University set a record for applications received.  This year’s 2,011 applications represent a 24 percent increase over last year’s record number.

Scranton: Northeast Pennsylvania’s Economic Growth Engine (Part Two)

(Continued from yesterday’s Part I below)

I asked Mayor Doherty if the population decline in Scranton was a concern and was he focused on trying to reverse it.  The mayor said the population is growing and becoming more diverse.  There are now two dozen languages being spoken in the Scranton School District and over 70 ESL teachers.  When the mayor took office ten years ago there was one ESL teacher in the school district.  I recently read that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is the least diverse of any metropolitan area in the United States over 500,000 people.  It would seem this may be changing.

We talked about the significance of what having a medical college and possibly a law school would mean for Scranton.  Bringing in and retaining college educated people will help stop the “brain drain” and grow a population with more disposable income.  This in turn fosters economic development and reduces crime.  Medical schools and law schools bring a certain amount of prestige to any city lucky enough to have one.  Perception is a hard thing to change.  These types of accomplishments will tangibly demonstrate that Scranton is not a rust-belt, blue-collar, post-industrial casualty.  Instead, Scranton has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and seeks to reclaim her proud heritage and rightful place as an economic powerhouse in Pennsylvania.

With a new governor in Pennsylvania things will most likely change.  Ed Rendell was a friend to Scranton and poured $140 million into the city for economic development.  Governor Corbett is still an unknown, only just taking office.  Many who received funding from Rendell are worried that money might be harder to come by under Corbett.  The good news from Scranton is private sector funding for economic development has reached a level that will sustain Scranton in the event that money from Harrisburg dries up.

One of Mayor Doherty’s mottos is “invest in yourself”.  Two examples of this are the restoration of the municipal building lobby and fixing the broken “Scranton The Electric City” sign that is perched atop on of the city’s taller buildings (pictured above).  The mayor feels strongly about the message neglect, disrepair, messy, dirty and cluttered can send to residents and visitors.  The first-floor lobby area in the historic Municipal Building was cluttered with soda/snack machines and was in need of a major spruce up.  The mayor did just that.  (While I was waiting outside the mayor’s office, I took a picture of the lobby because it was so impressive – see Part I photos).   The “Scranton The Electric City” sign had been broken for decades.  Now the sign lights up every night and makes a positive statement about the Scranton of the present, while honoring the city’s past accomplishments.

Having frequent events is an important tool Scranton uses to promote itself, attract tourists and prospective residents.  Scranton has a huge list of events like First Night, St. Patrick’s Day Festival (3rd largest in the U.S. and draws 150,000 people), La Festa Italiana (draws another 150,000 people), Komen for the Cure (10,000 people), Steamtown Marathon (2,500 people), Scranton Jazz Festival and the Pages and Places Book Festival.  These events are helping to make Scranton a “destination”.

My last question to Mayor Doherty was “What has been your greatest challenge?”  His answer was “changing the way people think”.  People need to believe that things are possible instead of falling into the “it can’t be done here”, “it will never work”, “we can’t afford it”, “we never did it that way before” and the litany of excuses to maintain the status quo.  The status quo is why Scranton hit bottom and had 22 empty building in its downtown. 

Mayor Doherty has a vision for Scranton and is undeterred by criticism and negativity.  Nor is he content to rest on his laurels.  He always has future projects on the back burner and showed me some of them while we walked.  The mayor is taking the revitalization of Scranton one project, one building at a time. 

I will share one last thing Mayor Doherty said to me, which is important to always remember.  These things take time.  It took seven years to get to the Connell Building project completed.  Construction took less than one year.  All the planning, committees, red tape etc… took six years.  Rome was not built in a day and neither will Scranton (or any other city) be magically revitalized.  The mayor has accomplished all these things over ten years.  It takes a dedicated team of people to make all this happen.  It also takes someone like Chris Doherty to lead the team with a positive, can-do attitude, a never give up mentality and most of all a healthy dose of patience.

The Electric City has a bright future and is poised to again become one of Pennsylvania’s most vibrant and important cities. 

 

Scranton: Northeast Pennsylvania’s Economic Growth Engine (Part One)

I recently had the pleasure of being given a tour of downtown Scranton by Mayor Chris Doherty.  Here are some thoughts and observations from my experience.

Mayor Doherty is a very down-to-earth person.  I was impressed by his friendliness towards the residents of Scranton and his commitment to the city.  We were joined by developer Charlie Jefferson.  Charlie developed the Connell Building and is working on some other projects in Scranton.  I will be writing a separate article about Charlie and his projects.  These two gentlemen made my trip enjoyable and highly productive!

Mayor Doherty gave me some basic information, before we left the office, about what has gone on in Scranton during the ten years he has been mayor.  When Mayor Doherty took office there were 22 empty buildings in downtown Scranton.  Scranton had hit a low point.  He decided his focus as mayor would be finances, the parks system and the downtown.  Former Governor Ed Rendell gave Scranton $140 million during the eight years he was in office.  It has certainly been put to good use.

One thing which pleasantly surprised me is the walkability of the downtown, for a mid-sized city.  The nice grid pattern of the streets, good signage and cleanliness were huge pluses.  I felt completely safe.  Scranton has a low crime rate for a mid-sized city.  As we walked and talked it became readily apparent that Scranton has turned the corner.

There are plentiful and diverse restaurants in the downtown which include things like Thai, Lebanese and Vegan.  A high-end steak house is also under construction downtown.  It will be along the lines of Morton’s or Ruth Chris.  We walked through the construction area that is being framed-out.  The influx of new center city residents, the Commonwealth Medical College, the University of Scranton, two courthouses, a municipal building, Steamtown Mall and new companies setting up headquarters downtown have swelled the demand for goods and services.  There is substantial foot traffic downtown, a key ingredient to redevelopment.

Mayor Doherty has built three new parking garages and rehabilitated one to make sure adequate parking is available for downtown visitors, shoppers and workers.  Lack of parking had been an issue that kept people from coming downtown.

Several companies have relocated or grown their businesses downtown.  An old Woolworth’s store is now home to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney & Fax Serve, which combined employ 200 people.  A high-end salon opened downtown that has grown to 80 employees.

Downtown Scranton has a Hilton Hotel and a Radisson Hotel.  The Radisson is the former Lackawanna Railroad Station.  Talk about an adaptive reuse success story!  We went inside so the mayor could show me around.  It is fantastic!  Both hotels are large and well-kept.  I asked Mayor Doherty what the occupancy rate averaged and he said “85%”.  Scranton hosts many events, conferences and meetings which help keep the hotels full and visitors coming into Scranton.  The mayor made a good point by saying people visit Scranton, leave impressed and spread the word!

The University of Scranton is located downtown and home to 7,000 students.  The university is growing by leaps and bounds.  Currently there are two enormous construction projects taking place that total more than $100 million.  The university is also considering the establishment of a law school which would be another huge economic boost for Scranton.  The University of Scranton is a key partner, along with the city, in transforming the downtown.

Commonwealth Medical College is building a campus downtown.  This is Pennsylvania’s first medical school to be built in 50 years.  The school is now leasing space and is in their second year of operation.  In September, the student body will move into the school’s new permanent downtown site.  The medical school will be responsible for bringing 800 new jobs and 600 students into downtown Scranton.  Six hundred new apartments/condos will be needed in the next five years as a result.  (If the law school becomes a reality; housing demand will sharply increase above the current projection for 600 units, fueling further economic development downtown.)

During our tour, we walked past the building used as the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company headquarters in NBC’s hit mockumentary, The Office.  Scranton was on the list of possible locations being considered.  When it was discovered the bar across the street from the building was named The Office, Greg Daniels decided it was perfect.  The Office has brought a great deal of free publicity to Scranton and has increased tourism.  There are monthly tours offered (March through December) and conventions, for fans of The Office, that bring many people to Scranton.

There is more to come in Part II on Thursday