Downtown Demolition Contract Awarded

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WILKES-BARRE -- The demolition project for a strip of buildings along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre is moving forward. City officials today awarded the demolition contract to the lowest bidder. Work may start as early as Sunday.

Preparation for the demolition on South Main Street continues as UGI disconnects gas services to this strip of buildings. As orange construction cones sprinkle the street, people walking through downtown Wilkes-Barre say they're sad to see these properties go.

"I think they're destroying the history around here, and I think these buildings should be spared to preserve our history," said Erik Vince, of Wilkes-Barre.

The city awarded the demolition contract to Stell Enterprises of Plains, the lowest bidder of four. It'll cost $194,000, but contractors say this demolition has its challenges.

"We're basically going to knock three buildings down completely and one building has to be cut in half and rebuilt and put back together so the structure stays in tact," said Rob Stella, of Stell Enterprises, Inc.

The Frank Clark Building, home to a new jewelry store, will be spared. So will part of the building next to it, where Place 1 at the Hollywood stands. Michaelene Coffee owns the dress shop that almost fell victim to the demolition plans.

"It's a big difference from yesterday. Yesterday I was that close to tears, but not today," said Place 1 at the Hollywood owner Michaelene Coffee.

City officials wanted to tear down Coffee's store since her building shares a wall with another building condemned by code enforcement. Coffee will move temporarily to her former location in Scranton. People who live and work in the city are happy to see Coffee's store stay open.

"The fact that you have an open store that's still doing good business, I mean as long as it's doing business I think that's good for the city," said Mary Deady, of Bear Creek Township.

Because it's an emergency demolition, the city doesn't need 10-day notice from the DEP, but an asbestos inspector will be on-site for the demolition. The mayor says the demolition will begin this Sunday or Monday and last until at least November 22nd.