SCRANTON -- A $51 million plan to turn a crumbling old factory into an apartment, office, and retail complex is at a crossroads.
Plans to develop the old Scranton Lace factory recently cleared a major hurdle, but another deadline is fast approaching.
Five years ago, the city of Scranton received a $4.5 million redevelopment grant from the state to fix up the old Scranton Lace building. Since then, almost no work has been done.
Neighbors now want to see some kind of renovations before the grant expires.
The building on Mylert Avenue in Scranton is almost 100 years old.
Some neighbors see the old Scranton Lace factory as seven and a half acres of broken windows, empty floors, nd a clock tower stopped at 25 minutes to 10.
"America in decline," laughed Ronald Kitlas. "That was once a very thriving place."
Kitlas worked as a cop and a zoning officer in Scranton before retiring to a neighborhood three blocks away from the empty, decaying building that has sat empty for nearly 15 years.
"The longer you leave it standing, the more trouble it is going to have," he said.
Developer Jody Cordaro wants the building to look very different. His proposed $51 million project includes apartments, offices, stores, restaurants, and a space dedicated to local artists to create and sell their work.
In 2011, Scranton leaders secured $4.5 million in state grant money for Cordaro to get the project going. Cordaro said he expected construction to start the next year.
He now says he expects the project to begin in 2017.
Cordaro says it took five years for the Army Corps of Engineers to remove the Scranton Lace site from a flood zone.
The Corps finished the levee on the Lackawanna river in 2011, but maps weren't updated until this spring.
Cordaro now says the project has a green light.
"We are on the eve of starting the environmental remediation work that will start sometime mid-summer," said Cordaro.
The $4.5 million state redevelopment grant funding the project is set to expire in November. By then, Cordaro expects crews will have done enough work to get an extension.
"We rate the possibility of the project at 90 percent. And clearly, nobody wants to see the project developed more than we do as developers."
"If he said that, I didn't hear him, but I believe him," said Kitlas.
Kitlas says Cordaro has reassured neighbors that plans to renovate the Scranton Lace property are alive. But in the past three years, the empty factory has seen three fires, dozens of police calls, and trees growing from a second story wall, leaving Kitlas and others fearing the worst if work doesn't start soon.
"It's like a normal house. If you don't take care of it, it's going to go to pot."
Cordaro says the project will take bids on the environmental cleanup of the Scranton lace Factory this month and that crews will start work on that part of the project in August.