Corner Concerns

By BRIAN FERRY

bferry@timesobserver.com

Not having a quorum didn’t hold back the redevelopment authority back.

There weren’t enough members in attendance to hold a formal meeting, but that didn’t stop two City of Warren Redevelopment Authority members from taking in an hour of revitalization news and ideas.

The bulk of the discussion centered on the empty lot and empty building at the southeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Liberty Street.

Authority member Chuck Hayes got that ball rolling. “Is anybody interested in that? It’s right in the heart of the business district,” he said.

City officials are interested in turning that location into something other than a parking lot.

City Planner David Hildebrand suggested having a collective strategy to developing the city’s properties.

He said he has seen the work of, spoken with, and seen presentations by Delta Development Group of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

The company has done extensive work in both Bellefonte and Williamsport, Hildebrand said. He suggested allowing a company like that come up with an appropriate plan rather than “selling those off in a haphazard, piecemeal situation.”

The properties in question were once known as Liberty East and development there was in the works.

The Liberty West portion of Impact Warren has been successful, Hildebrand said. “I was recently in Liberty West,” he said. “Those upper floors are fairly filled and they stay that way.”

“From a standpoint of residential downtown, they’ve been successful,” he said. “Those were vacant holes for many years. Impact Warren filled it in. To me, it made a big difference.”

But he said it is not necessarily safe to assume that a similar approach would work across the street.

The Liberty East portion of the plan 14 years ago, when the Yoder development was beginning, could be inappropriate now.

City Code Official Alan Gustafson said there is demand for housing in the downtown area and that people are looking to live within walking distance of where they work.

Hayes and authority member Randy Rossey agreed that an increase in the number of people living downtown would be a step along the path of revitalization.

City Manager Nancy Freenock suggested inviting Delta representatives to present at a future meeting of the redevelopment authority.

With only two of five members in attendance, the authority was not at its quorum and could not make any formal decisions.