NEW CASTLE Center plans a park

Council is finalizing a deal to create a playground and parking near the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Fighting blight downtown just got easier.
The Human Services Center of New Castle announced plans to create a park and promenade area in a blighted section where it is refurbishing six homes that will be used as offices and housing for clients.
The Human Services Center provides counseling and other services to those with mental disabilities and illnesses.
Dennis Neville, director of HSC, outlined the plans at Tuesday's council caucus.
City officials are being asked to vacate Grant Street, from North Mercer Street to Highland Avenue, to make room for the park, which will be bounded by sandstone planters and streetlights.
The $70,000 project will be funded by private grants and donations, said Roger Smith, also of HSC.
The park area will extend about 45 feet from the buildings, beyond the location of the existing street.
Plans call for an emergency-vehicle lane and underground utilities in that area, he said.
Smith said work is expected to be completed sometime in the spring if council approves the road closure.
Other matters: Council will consider several other downtown revitalization matters Thursday, including:
* Opening bids for the demolition of several buildings on the one-block area from Mercer to Mill streets, just below Grant Street, to make room for parking and a public park.
* Buying two vacant lots. One, owned by Human Service Center at Grant and Mercer streets, will be bought for $5,400 and the other, on East Washington Street, near Croton Avenue, will be bought for $3,000 from Debbie Baron. Both will be used for parking, officials said.
* Amending an agreement with Cascade Development Corporation. The agreement stated the city would create 150 new parking spaces west of the Neisner-Centennial building, but city officials learned that they can create only about 100 new spaces.
Finalizing land deal: Council is also working on finalizing a land acquisition agreement with the Cathedral Foundation, the organization that operates the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
Land located between Mercer and Blaine streets, about two blocks from the cathedral, will be converted into a playground, tennis courts, some green space and parking. It's now vacant and being used as an illegal dump.
The land is needed as part of a plan to sell the Laurel Avenue playground and tennis courts to an apartment complex developer. That land cannot be developed without the city's designating comparable green space.
When the deal was announced in January, city officials said they would take ownership of the Cathedral Foundation property in exchange for the city's taking over storm sewer maintenance, leveling off the land and providing more streetlights near the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

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