Lackawanna County Tax Money to Go to Iron Furnaces Project

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SCRANTON -- Lackawanna County commissioners are looking to take a big step in a long-anticipated project in Scranton, but they're taking money away from other projects to do so.

For a while Lackawanna County commissioners and other community leaders have had plans to develop the Historic Iron Furnaces along Cedar Avenue in Scranton into a commercial space. Commissioners have okayed money to get the project going, but that money is being taken away from other county-supported projects.

The Scranton Cultural Center is a hub for arts and entertainment in Lackawanna County. The facility and its programs bring in a lot of money. But, its director Joe Peters says they rely heavily on government funding that they'll see a little less of in 2013.

"It doesn't break us, but it's certainly significant to our operations as a non-profit where grant monies have dried up in government and otherwise. $30,000 is a lot of money," Peters said.

The Scranton Cultural Center, the Lackawanna County Library System, and the Everhart Museum in Scranton will each operate without $30,000 in county tax money meant for arts and entertainment projects.

Lackawanna County commissioners instead decided to spend that money at the Historic Iron Furnaces in Scranton.

The space played a big part in the Industrial Revolution in its heyday. But, commissioners and other community leaders think it could be a commercial space today.

Peters sees the potential there too, and is at least happy the Cultural Center's lost government funds are staying in Lackawanna County.

"The Iron Furnaces is a great venue. It's right here in the heart of the county. It's got such history, and any use of it only accentuates that history," Peters said.

Early plans are to use the furnaces' historic shape to create a commercial plaza that might include a brewery, restaurants, and art galleries. The plans were put together by DXDempsey Architecture. Owner Michele Dempsey said the county money will be used for research to see if the plans are possible and how much the entire project would cost.

The project still has a long way to go, she said, but this is major first step.

"Turning this into something that becomes a huge attraction for Scranton, and just helps continue this revitalization we have going on here, is super exciting for us," Dempsey said.

Architects aren't sure how much it will cost to complete their plan. Their research over the next few months will help figure that out.

There is no word on whether funding will be restored to those other non-profits next year.