BY Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — For all Jason Griggs has been doing to develop a building on South Main Street, he’s quick to give others credit.
The Wilkes University graduate and trustee plugged his school, the city, the tenants and the contractors working on the project to convert a vacant property into apartments for students and a ground-floor restaurant.
Griggs Properties LLC, the development and property management company in Royersford headed by its namesake, will invest approximately $750,000 in the downtown project.
“I look at my purchase and redevelopment of the building on South Main Street simply as an extension of what Wilkes University wants to do,” said Griggs, 50, class of 1990. It’s in line with the school’s mission of being “a private institution with a public purpose,” he said.
The school has limits working within that framework and that’s where outside interests find opportunities to get involved.
“It’s important also for private developers to come and do these things, because Wilkes can’t do it all,” said Griggs.
The school will be his tenant and fill the seven apartments.
On the first floor, Wilkes grad Christian Pilosi will open another version of his Eden — A Vegan Cafe that’s located on Adams Avenue in Scranton. Everything should be ready by mid to late summer, Griggs estimated.
All three floors could have been converted to apartments, but that would not have fit in with the school’s streetscape plans and that’s why the restaurant was included, Griggs explained. Pilosi, who had been looking for locations downtown, liked what he saw.
“I think he spent five minutes in this space talking to us before he said, ‘This is where I want to be,’” Griggs recalled.
Wilkes-Barre is a good place to be from Griggs’ perspective. “I think it’s certainly on a really good trajectory right now,” he said.
Griggs, who’s an investor in the Montage Mountain resort and has developed properties in downtown Scranton, encouraged others to take a chance on Wilkes-Barre.
“I’m fortunate that the city is open to it,” Griggs said of his project. Everyone from the mayor’s office, to code enforcement, zoning and the local contractors have been helpful. “I can’t do this alone,” he said.
The South Main project could lead to other investments on his part. Griggs said he’s identified other properties in the city and “would love to talk to the owners” about them.