SCRANTON -- A group in Scranton is hoping their latest building project will bring business owners into an area that was once considered one of Scranton's most dangerous neighborhoods.
United Neighborhood Centers took on the project on Cedar Avenue in south Scranton about ten years ago. The plan is to rebuild and restore blighted properties and to make more housing.
Friday morning, UNC broke ground on the second of three parts of the project.
13 years ago, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty filmed his first campaign ad in front of blighted buildings on the 500 block of Cedar Avenue.
Now, his vision and the vision of dozens of others is taking shape there.
"I'm already seeing it now. The quality of life has improved, our crime has dropped dramatically in south Scranton and what I see in the next ten years is this will be a business district just as it was," Mayor Doherty said.
Doherty and officials from United Neighborhood Centers in Scranton broke ground on the second part of a project to renovate and rebuild properties on Cedar Avenue.
The new construction is next to the first building renovated by UNC. Upstairs it's apartments and downstairs UNC holds adult literacy and English classes.
"We can see what's going on in the neighborhood and people can see us, we're very accessible and this is exactly where we should be," said UNC's Stephanie Bressler.
Officials from United Neighborhood Centers said by early 2015 there will be six new townhouses for people to buy and new storefronts.
"Lately there had been a lot more crime here, a lot of vacant lots, and we're trying to turn that around to promote private investment," said Martin Fotta of UNC.
Fotta hopes business owners buy up the townhomes and choose to live and work in south Scranton.
A hope that Connie Catapano certainly identifies with. She lives above her hair salon just on Cedar Avenue and said she's seen a lot changes, for the better, since she moved in 13 years ago.
"Things have really gotten better, and now I notice there's a lot of store fronts, a lot more people coming in and buying properties, opening up little businesses around here. And I'm excited, I really can't wait," Catapano said.
UNC Scranton's Cedar Avenue project has three parts. The work going on now is the second part, the third is on the 600-block Cedar Avenue. That will include more rental apartments.
This phase is expected to be finished by the beginning of 2015.