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NEW CASTLE Council OKs agreement for project



Published: Fri, July 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Project work must start within 30 days of the state's approval of the contract.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The approval of a formal agreement between the city and a private developer should put plans for downtown revitalization on the fast track, city officials say.

City council, at a special meeting Thursday, approved an agreement with Cascade Development Corp. and its subsidiary, Cascade Riverplex Limited Partnership, that outlines the work and amount of money the developer and city will spend.

About the project: The agreement is part of a multimillion-dollar private-public project to revitalize downtown by capitalizing on the city's status as the home of the first theater opened by Youngstown natives Harry, Albert and Sam Warner. The brothers went on to open the well-known Warner Bros. Hollywood studio.

Cascade Development and Cascade Riverplex Partnership, which is owned by Thomas George and Robert Bruce and members of their families, own the Neisner building, the site of the Warner's first theater, and two other downtown buildings -- the Centennial and the Troutman -- that are part of their plans for a Hollywood-theme mall.

Developers have said they intend to open restaurants and retail shops in the buildings as part of the development, which will center on the recreation of the original nickelodeon and vaudeville theaters operated by the Warners.

City officials outlined the specific work expected on those buildings in the contract approved Thursday.

Why it's necessary: The agreement is needed to get $5 million promised to the project by the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, the same program that provided public funding for the two new athletic stadiums in Pittsburgh.

Receiving the state funding is contingent upon the developer's spending at least $3.1 million and the city's shelling out $1.8 million for work.

The developer's work includes renovation and repair of the three buildings, all on Mill and East Washington streets. The agreement also calls for an addition to be built on the back of the Neisner building on land housing the B & amp;O Federal Credit Union.

City Solicitor James Manolis said the city officially has bought the B & amp;O building. It will be demolished and later turned over to the developer for the building addition.

Creating parking spaces: The city's end of the deal includes creating nearly 400 parking spaces downtown that will accommodate the needs of the new development, the contract says. That will require the city to demolish several buildings for the parking, which will remain under the control of the city's parking authority.

Part of the agreement also requires city officials to vacate a portion of Market Way, between Mill and Water streets, and remove all overhead utilities in that area. Manolis said that work is under way.

The city also is working on widening streets and installing new sidewalks and utilities downtown. Manolis said he expects state officials to approve the Cascade Development contract sometime in the next week.

Once the state gives its nod, work must start in 30 days and be finished in 18 months, the agreement says.

The city's end of the agreement also includes building an overhead walkway into the Croton Avenue entrance of the Troutman building and escalators into the Neisner and Centennial buildings

Manolis said the city may not build both a walkway and escalators because of limited funding. Whatever is constructed will be turned over to Cascade Development for repair and maintenance, he said.




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