By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — King’s College received approval Wednesday from the city’s Zoning Hearing Board to proceed with two projects that will expand its downtown campus, including the renovation of an historic church on North Street.
“We have some success in sort of taking older buildings, remodeling them and putting them back into good use,” said Tom Butchko, King’s director of facilities and procurement.
The school is in the process of attempting to have the Memorial Presbyterian Church, built in the 1870s, added to the National Register of Historic Buildings in order to obtain federal tax credits. The vacant church, purchased in 2011, sits across the street from the main collection of the school’s buildings and facilities.
Preliminary plans are to develop it for multi-purpose use and build a connecting one-story addition to house the school’s campus ministry, Butchko said.
“This is a beautiful building. It’s a historical artifact to the local area. We want to do our best to preserve and restore that and put it back to its former glory,” he said.
At its regularly scheduled public meeting, the board granted variances for parking and property line set backs on the condition that the school get approval of its land development plan for the project from the city’s planning commission.
The board set no conditions on the school’s plans to convert the former Springbrook Water Co. building on North Franklin Street into classrooms and labs for its new civil and mechanical engineering programs.
Butchko said the project fits into the school’s strategic plan to develop properties close to Public Square.
“That’s why the Springbrook building is so attractive to us,” he said.
The school purchased the former Ramada hotel and converted it into classrooms and dorms, renaming it King’s on the Square. It purchased the long -vacant Springbrook building in 2014.
A four-story addition will be built in the rear of the building for an elevator and stairwell in order to bring it into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A handicapped parking space also will be added behind the building. One spot is sufficient because there was no on-site parking in the past, said Bill Harris, the city’s director of planning and zoning.