HAZLETON -- The Hazleton City Council passed a resolution Wednesday to use a portion of the city’s Community Development Block Grant funding to partially finance the purchase the former PNC Bank on West Broad Street by the Wills Development Corporation.
Along with Luzerne County and the corporation itself, Hazleton will contribute $82,500 to the effort as a loan which will be repaid by the Wills Development Corporation.
Council Members Robert Nilles, Evelyn Graham and several city residents expressed reservations about the project fueled by a mix of fear over the nation’s current economic crisis as well as skepticism regarding past works done by the corporation with city money.
Community resident Dee Deakos noted that the city had funded a past project of the corporation to renovate a property on Broad and Pine streets which is now an unused vacant lot. Council Member Nilles and resident Antonio Rodriguez both sought assurances that the money would be paid back to the city should the loan be defaulted upon.
Joe Joyce of the Wills Development Corporation and the Joyce Insurance Group was in attendance to advocate for the project stating his belief that it will help to revitalize Hazleton’s downtown.
“We want to be a part of the downtown,” Joyce said. “If this doesn’t work, we lose.” The renovations will utilize local labor and the Joyce Insurance Group intends to rent office space in the building.
Joyce declined to answer Graham’s inquiry into the amount of money to be contributed by the corporation. But he did note that the group easily secured funding from a number of financial institutions and that several tenants are already slated to occupy the building following the completion of renovations.
Mayor Lou Barletta also defended the project going so far as to publicly thank Joyce for his, “continued commitment to the city’s improvement.” The two men were confident that the work will fix an unsightly city eyesore, bring jobs to the area and add to the city’s tax revenue.
The building will house offices for companies providing tax and health care services, The Joyce Brothers’ Insurance Group as well as a gym. Joyce cited success with the Corporation’s renovation of the property at 9 N. Main St. in Pittston as an example of the work they provide.
The resolution passed unanimously.