Investigating Fire In Renovated City Block

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SCRANTON -- There is question what will happen now to a downtown building in Scranton that caught fire. Wednesday night's fire hit one of only a few buildings in the 500 block of Lackawanna Avenue that wasn't condemned a few years ago to make way for new development.

That side of the 500 block of Lackawanna Avenue was renovated a few years ago, and it's obvious where those renovations stopped: at 506 Lackawanna, the long-vacant building burned Wednesday night and now business owners are wondering how long it will look like this.

The fire engines and huge billows of smoke on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton sparked fear for the many business owners, old and new, who work in this part of downtown.

"You hold your breath. Before we even moved in here that was my main concern. The buildings are just so close that you worry about what could happen," said Joann Finnerty of Bella Faccia.

Finnerty is one of those new business owners, who set up a chocolate shop in the renovated section of the 500 block. Fortunately for her, the fire didn't spread far. It started on an upper floor of one of the only buildings not condemned and renovated on this block.

Folks there say the storefront's been vacant for years but someone may have been living upstairs.

The building has been up for sale for almost a year, according to the realtor posted on the window and they say they haven't been able to get in touch with the building's owner in months.

The Leiderkranz club and Buona Pizza on either side of the building stayed closed to clean up minor smoke damage. Business owners who did open up were left wondering what would happen next. Many say this building's only been a reminder of what the 500 block used to look like.

"I hope now that this has happened, it's a very unfortunate incident, but hopefully something more constructive or beautiful will go there, even a parking lot that we need desperately," said Finnerty.

"Any kind of active business would be nice. It's always good to have anything, even another restaurant, I'd be happy. It's always good to have traffic on the street," said Peter Ventura of Coney Island Lunch.

The city of Scranton tried to condemn the building several years ago so it could be included in the renovation project but weren't successful.

Just a few hours ago, city officials hung the condemned signs on the doors.

Scranton fire investigators still haven't determined what caused the fire.