By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Wilkes University expanded its downtown campus this month with the purchase of a vacant office building, the same one it tried to buy last year for its growing engineering program.
The school bought the South Main Towers at 116 S. Main St. and several adjoining parcels for $500,000 from JA-VA Inc. of Plains Township, according to a deed recorded June 1 with the county.
Wilkes spokeswoman Gabrielle D’Amico said the school has not yet determined how it will use the four-story building, several vacant parcels and parking lots.
“The purchase continues the University’s commitment to expanding our campus footprint while utilizing vacant space and aiding in the revitalization of downtown Wilkes-Barre. Although it’s unclear exactly how quickly we will move on the properties, they will eventually be used for programs and activities that relate to the University’s educational mission,” D’Amico said Thursday in an email.
The building adds to the school’s presence on South Main where its University Center and Sidhu School of Business and other facilities are located. The purchase also removes the properties from the tax rolls. The 2017 Wilkes-Barre general fund budget lists a $100,000 payment in lieu of taxes from the private university.
The school went through the process of obtaining zoning approval last year to convert the 64,000-square-foot building into offices, classrooms and labs for its engineering programs. At a January 2016 Wilkes-Barre zoning board meeting, William Hudson, dean of the science and engineering school, said Wilkes would be able to expand its electrical and environmental engineering programs and add new fields of study.
But months later, the deal fell through after the school said it was unable to come to terms with the owner. No purchase price was disclosed at the time.