WILKES-BARRE — Preparation started Monday for the demolition of a strip of condemned buildings along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre. But some business owners say they’re not giving up their stores without a fight.
The light poles along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre are the first to go as the city gets ready to demolish several buildings code enforcement deemed structurally unsound.
“It just seems too sudden. I think there’s some kind of ulterior motive on the part of the city,” said Donald Blakeslee of Wilkes-Barre.
Mayor Tom Leighton announced last week developers were looking at the mostly vacant properties. But an engineering report determined many of the buildings were unsafe, and the city decided to tear them down.
Michaelene Coffee’s store, Place 1 at the Hollywood, is mostly safe, but it shares a wall with one of the condemned properties, so her store might have to go too.
“I’m doing everything in my power to stay. I’ve been here for 22 years. I’ve been here through the good and the bad and the ugly, and I don’t want to leave,” said Place 1 at the Hollywood owner Michaelene Coffee.
Even the people who just live and work in the city say this is an inconvenience. Getting around town is harder now with this sidewalk blocked off and fewer parking spaces.
“I had to really watch the traffic to make sure that I don’t get hit.”
“You want people to come downtown and you just want them to have the available parking, and it’s just sad,” said Blakeslee.
But Michaelene Coffee is fighting back, responding to the city’s condemned signs with her own signs in the window. She hasn’t packed up yet, even though the city wants her out by Tuesday.
“It’s impossible to move this building, three stories, plus the basement in five days,” said Coffee.
The Frank Clark building won’t be torn down, but the jewelry store will have to relocate temporarily. The city expects the demolition to last about two weeks.