By Denise Allabaugh, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice
WILKES-BARRE — A local developer has acquired the PNC Bank building in downtown Wilkes-Barre and has announced plans to create 40 upscale apartments and office space in a project called “Riverview West.”
Nicholas Dye and Casey and Adam Donahue of D&D Realty announced the $4.5 million project at a press conference Thursday on the 10th floor of the 11-story PNC Bank building at 11 W. Market St. It will be the developer’s fourth and largest project in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
They were joined by Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George and officials from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce and Diamond City Partnership.
About 60,000 square feet of the building will be converted into apartments and 13,000 square feet will be converted into office space. Five apartments will be located on each of the upper eight floors, Dye said. PNC Bank occupies the first two floors and office space will be located on the third floor.
D&D Realty has also completed other apartment projects in downtown Wilkes-Barre, including Hampton Park East, Hampton Park West and the Alleghany Lofts.
Each of the units in the projects were leased before construction was completed, showing the strong demand for apartments in downtown Wilkes-Barre, D&D Realty officials said.
“Between all four buildings now, we will have developed 76 apartments, nine storefronts and approximately 20,000 square feet of office space in downtown Wilkes-Barre since 2013,” Dye said. “The total investment between the four projects is $9 million.”
Of the apartments they rented, the average household income of residents is approximately $100,000 per year, illustrating the emergence of a demographic living downtown with a disposable income, Dye said. Of all their tenants, nearly 30 percent of their employment is medical-related, he said.
About 80 percent of their tenants fall under the 25 to 40 age demographic, Dye said.
According to a study completed last year by the Diamond City Partnership, the population has more than tripled in the last three years.
“It is this demographic that is driving the renaissance of downtown Wilkes-Barre,” Dye said. “They are the demographic that have the disposable income to support all the recreational amenities that are growing in the downtown.”
D&D Realty is collaborating with other companies on the Riverview West project, including Deadline Construction as general contractor, David Sheydwasser of Kingston for architecture, and Smith Miller Engineering in Pittston. Advanced Builders LLC in Pittston is the project manager.
Apartments will consist of one and two-bedroom units ranging from 650 to 13,000 square feet, with rents of $950 per month and up.
The units will feature high-end finishes including spa-like bathrooms, gourmet kitchens, granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.
Tenants will receive tax benefits due to the location’s Keystone Opportunity Zone status. The project will have KOZ benefits through 2024.
Riverview West will be completed in the summer of 2017, with the first occupancy occurring in late spring since there was spillover from their other apartment projects, Dye said.
They are leasing the surface lot across the street for parking, he said.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, said the demand for apartments in downtown Wilkes-Barre has been high.
“The market-rate downtown units are being leased as quickly as they are being constructed,” Newman said.
Wico van Genderen, president and CEO of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, said as he has been working with technology companies interested in coming to downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“They’re turning a historical building into something that attracts young millennials who want to come and live in the downtown,” van Genderen said. “I think you’re going to start seeing some momentum here.”
The PNC Bank building was constructed in downtown Wilkes-Barre in 1909 by Abram Nesbitt, according to Wilkes-Barre city Councilman Tony Brooks. It formerly was the First and Second National Bank and First Eastern Bank before it was the PNC Bank building, he said.
“It was Wilkes-Barre’s first skyscraper,” Brooks said.
More than 10 years ago, a water pipe burst on the ninth floor of the building and the fifth to 11th floors were condemned. According to Newman, the upper floors were vacant for more than a decade.
“The building itself is in a beautiful location,” Casey Donahue said. “The views are incredible. It feels like you’re in a big city. That’s what people want.”
There is a view of the Market Street Bridge and the Susquehanna River from the windows.
Donahue said he believes more people want to live downtown because of the “ease of getting around.”
“You could walk to the Kirby Center. You could walk to a restaurant, bar or bank. You really don’t have to drive,” he said. “I live downtown myself and I rarely use my car.”
About D&D Realty’s other downtown Wilkes-Barre projects:
Hampton Park East: East Northampton and South Washington streets
The company’s first project consists of 12 apartments, ranging from 650 to 1,700 square feet. Rents range between $1,000 and $1,750 per month. All apartments were leased before construction was completed. The building also houses 12 office suites and three storefronts for a total of 27 units.
Alleghany Lofts: 94-96 S. Main St.
The company’s second project involved purchasing and renovating the old Alleghany Hotel to create 16 apartments, each with two bedrooms. Rents range from $1,250 to $1,400 per month. Like Hampton Park East, all units were leased before construction was completed. T-Mobile is currently among the storefronts in the space. In February, two new tenants, Loyalty Barbershop and Electric City Tattoo, are moving in. Both businesses are expanding from their downtown Scranton locations.
Hampton Park West: East Northampton and South Washington streets
The company started Hampton Park West immediately after completing the Alleghany Lofts. The building, which is contiguous with Hampton Park East, contains eight apartments and two storefronts. The apartments range from 650 to 1,700 square feet and the rents range between $1,000 and $1,800 a month.