Demolition to breathe life into dormant WB development plan

i May 6th 2019

By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — After what seemed like years of inactivity at a proposed downtown development, a contractor has begun removing asbestos from one of the vacant buildings on site.

The work focused on the former Frank Clark Jeweler property at 63 S. Main St., where Mayor Tony George said the hotel component of the mixed-use project will be located.

George on Monday said officials with developer Sphere International LLC were at City Hall to discuss the project.

The developers have secured a hotel chain that will be announced later, George said. They will be applying for a demolition permit within the next two weeks for the former jeweler’s property, he said.

“It should be starting in three to four weeks,” George said.

A message left with the developer’s attorney, John Dean, was not returned Monday.

Empire Building Diagnostics Inc. of the Buffalo, N.Y. area, posted notices at 63 S. Main St. of the asbestos remediation that began on May 1 and was scheduled to be completed by May 17. It involved removal of insulation, floor tiles, linoleum, window caulk and roofing material.

In addition, utility workers were spray painting the locations of underground lines on South Main Street.

The project was first proposed in October 2015 as a 10-story high-rise at an estimated cost of $28 million. In 2016, Sphere International of Flemington, N.J. purchased 63 S. Main St. for $265,000 from Ken Pollock Inc. and six parcels from the city for $500,000. But it did not buy The Place 1 at the Hollywood property in the middle, co-owned by Michaelene Coffee and her mother Barbara.

The developer will build around the former women’s clothing store at 67 S. Main St. with the hotel on land toward Public Square and retail space toward the West Northampton Street side in the opposite direction, Mayor George said.

The city condemned several adjacent properties 61, 71, 73 and 75 South Main St. and hired a contractor for emergency demolitions in 2013.