Our opinion: The shadows remain

It could be years before the Gordian knot that was GROWarren – its failed projects, its web of alliances, its wasted money – is untangled, if ever.

The city’s lawsuit against the paper organization and its former director, remains in discovery phase, a process that could take years, according to city officials. A state grand jury investigation, which summoned several local city and GROWarren officials to Pittsburgh for testimony, has languished for more than two years and may have simply fizzled away. Because of the inherent secret nature of the proceedings, we may never know for sure.

But, the shadows of those failed dreams are still with us.

The Roberti Building on Liberty Street, one of two buildings GROWarren acquired through its Main Street/Downtown Warren Business District Coalition component, is apparently going on the block in a few weeks for non-payment of taxes. The building was supposed to be part of the headquarters for the Allegheny Center for the Arts, but for reasons buried deep in that knot, ended up less than half finished and empty.

Thanks to a number of dedicated community members, the ACA lives on and thrives without the Roberti Building. That group is more concerned about the arts than real estate.

Still other shadows appeared on the Judicial Sale list, one of them a high visibility property at the southwest corner of Liberty Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. You might better recognize it as the building that houses the local branch of ErieBank. The other is the geothermal facility located behind the building that would have been a hotel/conference center if all of GROWarren’s dreams had come true.

In both of those cases, the owner of the Pennsylvania Avenue building and the geothermal facility paid the years of tax arrearages to save them from the auctioneer’s gavel. Yes, that’s right, it’s the same geothermal gizmo that provides heat and cooling to the Transit Authority terminal and Allegheny Community Center as well as half the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue that was redeveloped as part of Impact Warren. It’s the same geothermal gizmo to which Penelec threatened to cut power earlier this year because $25,000 in electric bills hadn’t been paid.

In the cases of both those properties, the lines of ownership lead back to companies controlled by Robert Yoder, the lead developer of Impact Warren.

But, take heart, it’s the nature of shadows that they only appear when the sun is shining, or is that too pollyannaish?