Monday, March 24, 2008

Urban News Vol. 9

Recharged and refocused, I'm going to try to make a dent in a large pile of news eminating from Northeast Pennsylvania, my home for roughly 19 years and the last two days.

On Saturday my brother and I, for the first time in our lives (aggregate 42 years of Scranton residence) rode the COLTS 22 Bus from the corner of Elm and Froude to 101 Wyoming Avenue downtown. We then took advantage of Kunstler's civic equipment or Jacobs' urban fabric by acquiring some Cherry Chardonnay, Raspberry Riesling, a Pint of Magner's and Magic Hat, Comic Books, Windshield Wipers (for my mom), Motor Oil (for me to get back to NY), and Cash for our subsequent ice skating trip over the course of less than two hours.

On Penn Avenue, we came across an in-progress restoration project at the old Pub Charles (246 Penn Ave. uhh, the gentleman's club). The real gem was uncovered by the removal of an ill-conceived addition to the building that used to house a take-out restaurant. Once again exposed to the sunlight, the original brick touts "Auction sales every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 o'clock. Furniture, Carpets, Bedding. Household goods of every description." Another panel reveals what appears to be, "H.R. Westcott Auctioneer. Commission merchandise and appraiser. Established 1863."

Wow. What else is there to be said about a well preserved piece of Scranton history? I plan on contacting the developer to find out their intentions. This could make for an iconic corner in the Scranton cityscape, directly across the street from the Grand Army of the Republic Building which houses a piano bar and lounge. It is my sincere hope that Normandy Holdings (interesting original vision for St. Peter's Square) is open to the possibility, otherwise I will be back in this space pleading for support from other new urbanists.

Now for the story of the development itself, the date on the story is December 4th, 2007:

Article Key Points:
  • Developer and son investing $1.75M to renovate 324 and 246 Penn Ave.
  • 246 to be developed into space for commercial and professional tenants
  • 324 to see $1.5M worth of development to create two restaurant spaces and eight apartments
  • Both buildings said to be ready for occupancy by summer

Walking down those two blocks of Penn Ave. surrounding Linden St. made me feel like I was back in Federal Hill, Baltimore. Some of the best architecure as well as human scale to be found in Scranton can be found there. Here's to a preservation of two more buildings 'built to last' as a lasting memorial to the former wholesale district.

More to come tomorrow from Scranton, a city that has finally reached its Rust Belt turning point. Their Outlook '08 section in the Sunday Times focuses much less on resiliency compared to Rochester, but is more dominated by a tone of optimism for the first time since the Knox Mine Disaster in 1959 hastened the crippling of the regional economy.

On the Rochester front, I managed to knock off 54 pages of Duany, Plater-Zyberk, and Speck's Suburban Nation, The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream while riding the 30 and 18/19 buses to and from work. Today was the first day that the Tia mentioned in my 'byline' came along for the ride. I'd like to end with a quote regarding the 'American Gosplan,' referring to Stalin's Gosplan which arbitrarily set the "correct" prices for consumer goods. In this instance, where the Gosplan refers to the price of gasoline (2000 prices were in effect at the time of its authoring), consider contemporary shipping methods, currently threatening to strike:

"The American Gosplan pertains to shipping as well. In the current structure of subsidization, trucking is heavily favored over rail transport, even though trucks consume fifteen times the fuel for the equivalent job. The government pays a $300 billion subsidy to truckers unthinkingly, while carefully scrutinizing every dollar allocated to transit. Similarly, we try to solve our commuter traffic problems by building highways instead of railways, even though it takes fifteen lanes of highway to move as many people as one lane of track. This predisposition toward automobile use is plainly evident in the prevalent terminology: money spent on roads is called "highway investment," while money spent on rails is called "transit subsidy.""

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Da comrade!

I saw a priceless comment about how they should just put a locomotive engine in a semi so it could haul as much as a train. I'm hoping it was sarcastic.

If we put too much into biofuels we're going to have an American Holdomor!