Construction on downtown Wilkes-Barre hotel set to begin soon

i Apr 2nd 2021

By Steve Mocarsky, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

Mayor George Brown said he expects contractors will begin laying the foundation for an Avid Hotel on a lot between the now shuttered Place 1 at the Hollywood dress shop and the new D.P. Dough restaurant on South Main Street the week of April 12.

The hotel, which will have retail space on the first floor, will be situated alongside the Place 1 building and about 5 feet away from the D.P. Dough building, city Director of Operations Butch Frati said.

Hitesh Patel, one of the principals with project developer Sphere International, described the building design as “a boutique hotel on a 102-room property” when the company broke ground in June with the demolition of the former Frank Clark Jeweler building at 63 S. Main St., next to Place 1.

The retail space will front South Main Street, while the hotel lobby will be at the rear of the structure, with access off East Northampton Street, Frati said.

Hitesh Patel and Suresh Patel first announced the project in October 2015, when it was estimated to cost $28 million and would include a convention center, luxury apartments and condominiums, stretching all the way to East Northampton Street.

Sphere attorney Jack Dean said in December that the project was “not on the same footprint that it was five years ago due to some problems with land acquisition.”

Sphere purchased the Clark building for $265,000 from Ken L. Pollock Inc. and five of six other parcels of land at the site from the city for $500,000 in 2016.

Place 1 owner Michaelene Coffee said in December 2018 that negotiations to sell her mother’s building to Sphere had fallen apart, and she was told the developer would “build around it.”

Frati said Sphere officials have not yet revealed their plans for the lot they own at the corner of Main and Northampton streets, south of the Place 1 building.

Brown said that while Sphere’s project is the first major downtown development project to begin construction activity this year, it’s not the only one.

Construction on a $35 million hotel/condo project on the site of the demolished Hotel Sterling at North River and West Market streets is set to begin by August, Brown said.

The city razed the dilapidated hotel and acquired the lot in 2014. The city council voted to sell the site to Gateway Center Associates for $600,000 in March 2018.

Frati said the developer is currently working to finish a land development plan to submit to the city for approval.

Brown also said work to convert the long-vacant Hotel Sterling Annex on North River Street into a modern, 30-unit upscale apartment building should be complete by the end of April.

The $3.5 million project, which broke ground in May 2019, halted in March 2020 when construction projects and non-essential businesses were shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Progress on converting the former First National Bank Building into a fine-dining downtown restaurant remained unclear Thursday.

The city council in December authorized Brown’s administration to sell the structure at 59-63 Public Square to developer George Albert, who owns an engineering firm in Pittston, for $400,000.

The council also authorized the administration to apply for a $250,000 Keystone Communities Program grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to renovate the building.

Albert, who is expected to invest about $1.2 million into that project, did not immediately return a call.