By Jayne Ann Bugda, Wilkes-Barre WBRE/WYOU
WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) Some are calling it the renaissance of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Not that long ago, many people had given up the center city for dead. The I-Team’s Andy Mehalshick spent some time with people today who refuse to let the downtown die.
As a street musician plays a happy tune on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, that is music to the ears of many people who feared downtown Wilkes-Barre would meet the same fate that many other down towns across the country have. Failure and despair.
But just look around there are people here–there are businesses here– with more moving in. This was made possible –in part- by the work of members of the Downtown Business Association.. Eyewitness News, which based in downtown Wilkes-Barre, played host for their monthly meeting.
“I think people have the perception of the downtown from 10 years ago. It’s not the downtown of today.” said Dr. Patricia Butler of Butler Eyecare.
Many of these folks stayed in downtown Wilkes-Barre when others were hightailing it out..
People like long time business man Gus Genetti
“I got here in 1963 and saw Wilkes-Barre go very down. I’m happy to say I was young enough to see the resurgence of the downtown.”
Linda Armstrong opened up a not-for-profit dress shop “Dress for Success”. She says she saw a future in the downtown..
“Downtown Wilkes-Barre is heading on its way up and it’s been on it’s way up.” said Armstrong.
But that did not happen overnight. Business development groups came up with a plan to re-purpose the downtown area..
“It is not the retail center that it once was but it actually has evolved much more into a balanced mix of restaurant purposes, retail uses, entertainment and most important housing.” added Larry Newman of the Diamond City Partnership.
Several groups are working together to develop and promote Downtown Wilkes-Barre including the Diamond City Partnership and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps the next big project will be the restoration of the Irem Temple.