WILKES-BARRE – There are mixed opinions about the use of grant money from casino revenue, to restore a historic building that does not yet have any prospective tenants.
City officials told Newswatch 16 that they are using $1.3 million in grants to repair the walls, roof and skylights of the former First National Bank on Public Square.
Mary McDonough remembers the bank when it was last open in the 1970’s and believes that the project is a good use for gaming funds.
“I think it`s a good thing, I do, because we have to keep our city up in order for us to survive,” said McDonough. “Downtown was very well developed. After the flood, things really took a turn for the worse.”
After walking by the big black protective netting on the front of the building, Jim Stephens told Newswatch 16 that he thinks the plan is dicey.
“It`s good that it’s getting fixed up, but without really having a buyer, that`s another story I guess,” said Stephens. “There`s certainly, probably other projects where casino money could have been used better, especially if they didn`t have a potential buyer.”
Stephens said the situation seems similar to the Hotel Sterling saga.
Organizers received state aid and casino revenue to restore that historic high rise, but contractors demolished it last summer, after authorities deemed the building dangerous.
Wilkes-Barre officials said they’ve already received interest in the building from commercial and residential developers, but there are no solid commitments yet.