By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — A friend’s candid description of the city’s progress sold Hysni Syla on investing in a vacant downtown property.
Syla had his eye on the former Wachovia Bank building on West Market Street, a short walk from Cafe Toscana run by his longtime friend, Marcello Ameti.
The price had dropped to nearly half from the original listing of $900,000. But Syla said he asked Ameti to rate from 1 to 10 the progress of the city since he opened the restaurant on Public Square in 2007.
“He told me 6,” Syla said Wednesday by phone through an interpreter.
Soon after Syla, a Kosovo immigrant who has developed properties in Philadelphia, made an offer, and his company, 126 S. 45th Street LLC, bought the property for $285,000 last month.
His decision wasn’t rushed. Instead it was instinctual.
“All my life I don’t want to lose any moment,” Syla said.
He said he plans to build apartments in the section that housed the former U.S. Post Office and spend between $500,000 and $600,000 of his money. That should be completed in four or five months, he added.
Plans for the larger bank building next door were not as concrete, he said.
He has had “to spend a lot of money on the roof” and repair the facade that’s framed by scaffolding.
So far, Syla liked what he saw of the city, and he said wants to tell other investors.
Word already has gotten around and that particular intersection has gotten notice.
The PNC Bank building kitty-corner from Syla’s property is being renovated for condominiums. The bank occupies the first two floors of the 12-story building. In February, the owner, Oller and Associates of Philadelphia, announced it was partnering with a local developer on the project.
Directly across the street from the PNC Bank building, the upper floors of the 14-story former Citizens Bank building are being converted into apartments. The ground floor and several above it will remain as commercial space.
The tenants on floors 11 and 12 will stay. The penthouse also will be redone.
What’s being proposed for those buildings has been done at the Luzerne Bank building on Public Square. A bank is on the ground floor and a mix of offices and residences are on the upper floors.
And the mixed-use City Centre complex on South Main and East Northampton streets houses 21 condominiums at the Elevation Lofts.