NEW CASTLE City takes first step of face-lift

A successful summer playground program on the city's south side will be expanded next year.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- City officials are moving forward with the first phase of property acquisitions for downtown revitalization.
City solicitor James Manolis said an agreement has been made with one property owner in the one-block area between Mercer and Mill Streets, just below Grant Street.
However, Manolis has asked council to authorize condemnation for the other seven properties on that block. Most are interested in selling their property, but they still need more time to talk, he said.
The solicitor said he will continue negotiations for the land but wants to ensure the city has possession of the property sometime in September if the talks fail.
City officials plan to demolish the existing buildings and put parking and a public park there. That work should be completed sometime in December, Manolis said.
Manolis also asked council to hire Keystone Acquisition Services of Pittsburgh to determine what tenants and property owners should get in terms of moving costs and relocation fees. Keystone will be paid a maximum of $8,248 for their work, he said.
Property: Manolis said there are two other areas in the city where they will be acquiring more property as part of the downtown revitalization plan. Negotiations for that land likely won't start until they are finished talking to the first set of property owners, he said.
The second area where land will be taken is west of the Neisner-Centennial Building on East Washington Street. The third area is east of the Troutman Building, also on East Washington Street, he said.
The Troutman and Neisner-Centennial buildings are part of the public/private revitalization project that started this summer in downtown. Cascade Development Corporation is restoring both buildings as part of a new Hollywood theme mall based around the first theater owned by move moguls the Warner Brothers.
City officials have agreed to widen streets, resurface sidewalks, replace utilities and add more parking downtown to help jump-start that project and others.
Playground: In other business, Mayor Timothy Fulkerson said the city's pilot summer program at the Long Avenue playground was so successful that it will be continued and duplicated in another part of the city next year.
The Long Avenue playground was refurbished with money donated by the South Side Business Association and the city. An instructor was hired to teach neighborhood children crafts and also work with them on social issues that included lectures from police and firefighters. A computer was put in the playground for the children to use.
Fulkerson said the program attracted about 25 children a day ranging in age from 6 years old to teen-agers.

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