By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — John Maday, president of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, is determined to put Wilkes-Barre in the Guinness Book of World Records.
At Friday’s meeting of the group at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA, Maday boldly predicted not only that the current record for a continuous chalk drawing of 3.5 miles will be surpassed, he said the new record will be 5 miles.
“Even if I have to be there until midnight, we will get there,” Maday said.
And he wasn’t kidding.
Maday said the downtown organization will hold its annual Chalk Fest and Hydromania on Saturday, Sept. 29, along the River Common, urging volunteers to come out and “be a part of history” in breaking the existing record for the longest chalk drawing.
Maday said the Chalk Fest will begin at South Street near the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center on the campus of Wilkes University and extend to North Street near the Luzerne County Courthouse. Maday said that distance is approximately 1 mile, making it necessary for the chalk drawing to go back and forth until is reaches 5 miles. Maday said the engineering/architectural firm Borton and Lawson has provided a map of how the chalk drawing will be laid out.
Maday said the current Guinness world record belongs to Greeley, Colorado, at 3.5 miles. When asked if a spot will be marked where the new record will surpass the old, Maday said, “Absolutely not. We will make it to 5 miles even if I have to be out there until midnight.”
Maday said the event will require many volunteers.
“Come out and make history with us,” Maday said. “Be a part of it. You will be given a box of chalk and all we ask is that you just draw.”
‘Pretty cool building’
About 35 members attended Friday’s meeting of the downtown business association.
Jim Thomas, executive director of the YMCA, gave a report that included several interesting facts:
• The YMCA building, which hosted the building, was constructed in 1933 by Sordoni Construction Co. at a cost of $650,000.
• The building contains 210,000 square feet.
• Currently, the YMCA has 42 residential units occupied by 59 Wilkes University students through a cooperative agreement with the school. Thomas said the YMCA recently signed a 12-year lease extension with Wilkes for the units.
• In 2012, the YMCA completed a $16 million renovation project. Thomas said $15.3 million of the funding was raised in the community.
• Thomas said current Y membership is about 5,000.
“This is a pretty cool building,” he said. “And we have be sure to maintain its historical integrity. They just don’t build buildings like this today.”
Gus Genetti, a member of the downtown group and longtime hotel operator, said the YMCA has “had a major impact on downtown Wilkes-Barre for decades.”
In his monthly report, Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City partnership, said the former Sterling Hotel Annex building at 19 N. River St. is being renovated into 20 to 30 apartments. Newman said the structure, built in 1914 as an Elks lodge, served as the first home of Luzerne County Community College.
The apartment project should be completed sometime in 2019. He said the developers are still exploring different floor-plan layouts.
“The building has been vacant and gutted since 1990,” said Newman. “It will now add to the rising number of downtown residential units in the city.”
Newman also reported that King’s College has begun renovating the former Spring Brook Water Co. building at 30 N. Franklin St. He said the college will use the building to house its civil and mechanical engineering programs.
In addition, King’s is renovating the former Memorial Presbyterian Church on North Street.
Meanwhile, Wilkes University has completed its renovation of its Stark Learning Center and the school’s quad area.
“There’s a lot going on at both of the city schools,” Newman said.
Newman also announced he will soon reveal results of the most recent Downtown Perception and Use survey that had more than 600 respondents. He revealed one finding Friday: downtown workers each spend an average of $4,400 per year downtown on food/beverages, personal services, entertainment and non-food items. He said downtown residents spend about $6,750 each for the same things per year.
In one other piece of business, Newman announced the successful Holiday Pop-Up Shop program is in the planning stage and more information will be released soon.
“That program will be back by popular demand,” he said.