Downtown Wilkes-Barre Becomes A Destination – Kings And Wilkes Play Large Roll

Location of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropol...

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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?”

Blight Eradication In Wilkes-Barre Neighborhood

After some legal wrangling, three blighted properties on Monroe Street in Wilkes-Barre were demolished.  The blighted properties became dumping grounds and the neighbors were bothered by noxious odors for several years.  There have also been multiple fires (arson) at the site over the last two-years which have been a great concern for neighbors. 

Blighted, and in this case vacant, properties are magnets for vandalism, squatters, dumping and rodents.  These properties were jeopardizing the stability of an otherwise nice neighborhood.  Repeated fires also created serious safety hazards for neighboring residents.  Another issue here, there is an $18,000 tax lien on the property, which is still owned by Christopher Street Realty.  The city is being reimbursed for the demolition of the derelict properties.

Kudos to Wilkes-Barre for taking the necessary steps to demolish these blighted properties and making this neighborhood safe and healthy once again!