County visitors bureau eyes Market Street Square site

i Dec 3rd 2016

By Denise Allabaugh , Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice

WILKES-BARRE — The Luzerne County Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to be one of the first tenants to open in the Market Street Square complex being renovated in Wilkes-Barre.

Janet Hall, executive director of the bureau, told the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association Friday morning that the bureau wants to be located in an addition that will be constructed next to the historic train station. The bureau is currently located on Public Square.

“We see that as the perfect place for the visitors bureau to be located,” Hall said.

Luzerne County Council would have to approve the proposal, she said.

Developer George Albert, whose company bought the train station and six acres of land for $1.2 million from the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority, updated members of the business association on the development underway and talked about plans to construct the addition.

He said the restoration at Market Street Square will mark an $8 million to $10 million investment. Exterior and interior renovations will be completed at the existing 10,000-square-foot retail strip at the site, he said.

“We’re bringing in new tenants to that strip center,” Albert said at the meeting Friday at the F.M. Kirby Center. “One of the main components of that redevelopment project is to build a bisector road between East Market and East Northampton street(s). We’re going to create a pedestrian corridor, a new roadway and sidewalks. We’re going to flank that roadway on both sides with cherry blossom trees and landscape the rest of the property.”

The train station itself will be renovated “to as close as we can get it to its original condition,” Albert said.

“It’s being done with private funding,” he said. “We are going to do our best to restore that building to its original look.”

Albert said his company is working with a large law firm to potentially take that space. His company’s office and a real estate firm will be located on the second floor.

“The building is beautiful,” he said. “The original architecture is intact.”

Among the other tenants that will locate to the site, a Burger King will open next year at Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and Market Street, Albert said

Domino’s Pizza plans to relocate from its current site on Pennsylvania Avenue to the Market Street Square complex, he said.

His company has plans for professional office buildings in the back of the property. He said a potential tenant, that he would not yet identify, is interested in 10,000-square-feet of new construction.

The remaining property will be a mix of the new construction and renovation, he said.

Albert recently purchased the Innovation Center on South Main Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre for $2.6 million.

He also talked about his plans to acquire the vacant First National Bank Building on Public Square and create a private equity fund to acquire technology companies and bring them to Wilkes-Barre. He said he already has one tenant secured that he would not identify and he is negotiating with two other tenants to bring jobs to the area.

“Our broader vision here is really to bring opportunities for our kids,” Albert said. “For those who have children, we want to provide them the opportunity to stay here.”