Deal near on sale of last property for site of downtown Wilkes-Barre hotel project

i May 12th 2017

By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — A deal is near for the sale of the property that’s been holding up the proposed $28 million hotel/conference center downtown.

The attorney for the developer Sphere International LLC and the daughter of the property owner Friday confirmed they’re close to an agreement for the purchase of the Place One at Hollywood building.

“I would expect to close within 60 days,” said Michaelene Coffee whose mother Barbara owns the property at 67 S. Main Street.

“I received the paperwork from them on Tuesday and it’s in the hands of my attorney in Harrisburg,” Coffee said.

“They’re finalizing their negotiations for the last piece of property,” said attorney John Dean.

The update could end speculation about the viability of project that was first announced in October 2015. As recently as Thursday night at the Wilkes-Barre City Council meeting, Councilman Mike Belusko asked about the project’s status. There has been no visible activity on the site on the corner of West Northampton and South Main streets. All of the work had been behind the scenes with the acquisition of city and privately owned properties.

“I believe we took a demolition permit out,” Dean said. While speaking with a reporter by phone Friday Dean, who was not involved in the Coffee negotiations, said he was on his way to a meeting with the developer. Sphere International LLC has proposed a 10-story structure to include a 100-room hotel, rental units, condominiums and street-level retail space.

In November 2013 the city razed several vacant properties it owned on the site. It had to act quickly with the emergency demolitions due to the danger the dilapidated buildings posed. The Coffee property and the adjacent Frank Clark Jeweler building were stable enough to remain, but the store owners were forced to close during the demolition. The jewelry store reopened for a short time and later shut down. The Place One at the Hollywood closed its doors and relocated to its Scranton store.

Issues with titles for the properties delayed the city’s sale of properties to the developer who, according to court records, is based in Flemington, N.J. The city and Sphere agreed to a $500,000 selling price with $250,000 already paid and the other half to be made in five $50,000 annual payments.

The developer acquired the former Frank Clark Jeweler building from owner Ken L. Pollock Inc. for $265,000 in July 2016.

Coffee, who said she and her mother have been involved in the sale of the Place One at the Hollywood, have settled on a price that makes both sides happy. The terms will be disclosed later and work should begin soon afterward, she said.

“It’s going to be an awesome addition to Wilkes-Barre,” Coffee said.