Renovation of the historic former train station in downtown Wilkes-Barre is not expected to be completed until January, delaying relocation of Luzerne County’s tourism bureau into the property, Acting County Manager Romilda Crocamo said Monday.
Under the county’s five-year lease, council has two options if renovations are not completed by Dec. 15: terminate the agreement or add six months to the allowable construction date and lease commencement. If the county chooses the extension, the owner — Market Square Properties Development LLC — would have to pay the county liquidated damages of $180 per day until the station is ready for county occupancy, it says.
The $180-per-day damages would be imposed as a credit on the county’s rent payment, officials have said.
Crocamo said developer George Albert attributed the delay to supply chain backups. He suggested the county keep its lease of office space on Public Square, also in downtown Wilkes-Barre, through Jan. 31, 2022.
She told council she will consult with the county law division and provide council with an update.
A county council majority voted in April to lease tourism space in the building at the corner of Market Street and Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, ending uncertainty about whether the former Central Railroad of New Jersey depot would be preserved.
County officials had long discussed plans to move the office from Public Square, but Albert told council his investment group needed a commitment before it proceeded with renovating the structure.
Once the building is renovated for occupancy, the county will lease 2,100 square feet at $15.43 per square foot, which amounts to $32,400 annually. The tourism bureau does not receive funding from the county’s general fund operating budget and relies on revenue from the hotel tax and other outside sources.
Built in 1868, the station is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Prior county commissioners had authorized federal community development funds for the county Redevelopment Authority to purchase the station complex from businessman Thom Greco in 2006. With no funds to redevelop the 6.36-acre tract, which includes another structure housing multiple businesses, the authority sold the property to Market Square Properties in 2016.
County administrators have been regularly meeting with Albert and other train station representatives to review the status of the work.
Crocamo released summary notes of the latest Nov. 10 status meeting that referenced the completion delay.
Among the other details in this overview:
• Windows and doors are installed with several trim pieces waiting to be fabricated.
• There is much interior work that needs to be completed, including drywall installation. Interior brick will be painted instead of sealed due to variations in brickwork and supply chain issues obtaining semi-transparent stain.
• All electrical, HVAC and plumbing “rough-in” work has been completed. The HVAC has been delivered and should be installed the week of Nov. 30.
• Concrete sidewalks have been poured, and some parking lot work is scheduled for this week.