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Land Revitalization Summer '07 Newsletter – All Aboard – Scranton's Comeback on the Right Track

The City of Scranton, located in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains Region, has a rich history of railroads, mining and iron-working and was once known as the "Anthracite Capital of the World" With the collapse of these industries, Scranton started its economic decline in the 1950s. By 1991, Scranton was designated a distressed municipality by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Today, Scranton is recovering from its past troubles and is a thriving town with a diverse economy, involved community, and rich cultural attractions. Restoring its historic railroad station and property is part of its broader plan to diversify its economy.

Once a hub of railroad traffic for the region, the Central Railroad of New Jersey Freight Station (CNJRR) will soon become a hub of redevelopment on downtown Scranton's west side.CNJRR's prime location in downtown Scranton provides 4.5 acres of development potential adjacent to the Lackawanna River, the Steamtown National Park historic site and a new intermodel transportation center.

Central RR of NJ Freight Station
This grand dame of Scranton is getting a $4.5 million facelift.

Built in 1891, the 14,000-plus-square-foot, turreted, Queen Anne-style station was designed primarily to facilitate shipping of coal from the area. It remained in use as a freight station until the mid-1950s. Finally, the building was used to warehouse produce for a short time, but has been abandoned since the 1990s. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it remains is one of the most recognized buildings in the Lackawanna Valley.
The station, while structurally sound, was in imminent danger of total loss and suffering from arson, neglect and abuse. Former mining operations left the property with large areas of fill of unknown origin, steep, unstable embankments and areas of mine subsidence. In January 2000, it was purchased by the CNJRR Station, LP, a public/private partnership, with a vision to restore the historic structure and return it to the stream of commerce providing educational and recreation to the public.

Future look of the Scranton train station.
Future look of the Scranton train station.

Plans are underway to revive the historic building as a restaurant, retail and office space, making it both a crown jewel in the City of Scranton and the cornerstone of a large development project. The renovations will bring in new uses while trying to preserve historic character and features. Masonry work is expected to begin in the late summer followed by construction initiation in the fall.

When complete in late 2008, CNJRR Station will encompass 23,000 rentable square feet of commercial space on four floors bringing an anticipated 250 new jobs to the region. As part of a designated Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone (KOEZ), businesses locating in CNJRR Station will receive significant breaks on income, property and sales taxes.
The CNJRR Station also provides a permanent public easement for the Lackawanna River Walk Project which will provide new park space for the community and access to the river for small watercraft.

Future layout of the Scranton train station.
Future layout of the Scranton train station.

Total costs for the redevelopment are expected to top $4.5 million. EPA Region 3 provided support by conducting both Phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments in 2006 under its Targeted Brownfields Assessment Program. Contaminated soil will be cleaned up during the rehabilitation of the building.

A $2 million grant is being provided by the State of Pennsylvania's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which provides funding for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, and historical improvement projects. The remainder of the funding will be obtained through private investment in the form of historic tax credit equity, as well as conventional mortgage debt.

Article contributed by
Kristeen Gaffney
EPA Brownfields & Revitalization Branch
Jerry Donahue
CNJRR Station, LP


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