Grant to fund study of buildings in downtown Wilkes-Barre block

i Aug 3rd 2021

By Steve Mocarsky, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

Diamond City Partnership will try to determine if a significant gateway to downtown Wilkes-Barre could be improved by restoring potentially historic facades.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development has awarded DCP, the city’s downtown management organization, $15,000 through the Keystone Communities Program for the West Market Street Gateway Planning Project, Gov. Tom Wolf’s Office announced Monday.

The funding will allow DCP to hire an architect to work with the owners of properties along West Market Street between River and Franklin streets to ascertain the viability of facade restoration, DCP Executive Director Larry Newman said.

“This is obviously a critically important block in downtown Wilkes-Barre and really serves as the gateway to the downtown from the West Side,” Newman said. “An architectural services firm would be evaluating if anything underneath what was put on (the building facades) in the 1950s and 1960s could be salvaged.”

Newman said the one-block span is an already-busy thoroughfare, and he expects it will become even busier as development at the site of the former Hotel Sterling moves forward.

H&N Investments LLC plans to construct a five-story, 110-room Hyatt Place Hotel and a small conference center on the former Hotel Sterling site located between North River and North Franklin streets by West Market Street.

The hotel also will offer support facilities for guests, which will include a small restaurant for breakfast and lunch along with a rooftop bar and restaurant for light fare. Officials anticipate construction will be complete by the end of 2022, according to a land development plan the city planning commission approved in May.

Newman said there are several historic commercial buildings along the one-block span of West Market Street, all of which have been modified over the last several decades, some extensively.

Those buildings house businesses including M. Abraham Importers, Sartorio & Sons Barber Shop, Abide Coffeehouse, Martin’s Karate and Broncos Vault Brazilian Steakhouse, as well as Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Newman also noted that close to 140 new residential units have been developed on the upper floors of the Broncos Vault building, and the PNC Bank building and the former Wyoming National Bank building on the corners just across Franklin Street — all three of which maintain their historic facades — over the last several years.

“Given the grouping of these buildings, with the residential development there and the hotel underway at the Sterling site, it makes sense to see if we could partner with the commercial property owners in that block to see if we could improve the appearance of the entire street,” Newman said.

Contact the writer:

smocarsky@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2110, @MocarskyCV