Sunday, April 6, 2008

Case Study - Scranton, PA

This is the fourth in a series of city/region case studies. Previously profiled have been Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Pinellas County, Florida. All photography with the exception of any and all maps are either personal photography or used with permission.

This case study promises to stray into the world of inside information seeing as how I lived in Scranton just about every day for 19 years. By the same token, every time I go back I see changes, so I'm as unqualified to talk about things occuring since September of 2000 as the random tourist. I've never stayed in hotel there and only rode the public bus for the first time two weeks ago. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to offer more than just the standard tourism brochure.

Getting to Scranton

To date, I've ever gone to an from Scranton in a personal automobile or charter bus. There are currently no trains servicing the city, however a NJ Transit line to Hoboken is in the works. Interstate 81 is the main North-South route to Scranton from New York state. I-476, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike connects Scranton to Allentown and Philadelphia. The western terminus of I-84 to Hartford/Boston and I-380 to the Poconos and New Jersey/New York City reside just east of the city.

Martz Trailways buses serve Scranton from New York City, King of Prussia, Hackettstown, Mount Pocono, Panther Valley, Philadelphia, Stroudsburg, Wilkes-Barre, and Atlantic City. Greyhound serves Scranton from almost all Northeast locations.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, located nearby in Pittstown Township near the Borough of Avoca, is the commercial airport for the region. Recent terminal expansions in 2006 have improved the convenience aspects of flying from AVP and it now boasts non-stop service to Cleveland, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Myrtle Beach, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Charlotte.

Downtown Scranton

Bounded by the Steamtown National historic site to the southwest, the Lackawanna River to the northwest, the University of Scranton to the southeast, and Olive Street to the northeast, downtown Scranton is one the twin centers of business and commerce for Northeast Pennsylvania. The county seat of Lackawanna County, Scranton teams with Luzerne County's Wilkes-Barre to create a significant metropolitan area of over 600,000 residents. Due to topography, almost all of these live on a southwest to northeast axis of contiguous towns rather than flat sprawling suburbs.

Downtown is home to the Mall at Steamtown, an early 90's development that tied in restoration of three older downtown buildings. Movie theatres, restaurants, and hotels have sprung up around Lackawanna Avenue in the last 15 years, but they belie the true gems of downtown. Scranton saw little to no significant development from 1950 to 1990, a mixed blessing in many regards. What it was able to maintain, and now utilize going forward is an outsized stock of building of various archtectural styles of the late 1800's.

From churches, to historic sites, to the Commercial District, Courthouse Square, and Gothic district, prime examples of Gothic Revial, Second Empire, Victorian Gothic, Chicago Style, Colonial Revival, Richardsonian Romanesque, Beaux Arts, Neoclassical, and Art Deco abound. Rather than go into any more detail in matching buildings to their style, instead I will embed a ten-minute film that I produced with Photographer Justin Jackson, whose images have graced my blog previously.

One of the buildings seen in the film, the former Masonic Temple, is now the refurbished Scranton Cultural Center and one of two homes to the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic Orchestra. Also downtown is Lackawanna College whose main building occupies the former Scranton Central High School.

Extended Downtown Districts

As mentioned earlier, downtown is bordered (and connected to via the Mall at Steamtown Pedestrian Bridge) by the Steamtown National Historic Site. This living museum offers excursions to Delaware Water Gap, Tobyhanna, and Moscow. Also housed here is a steam locomotive maintenance shop and the Electric City Trolley Museum (separate admission) with a working electric line that terminates at PNC Field, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees of the International League.

The other subdistrict is constantly evolving, annexing, and developing. The University of Scranton is a private Jesuit university offering 57 undergraduate majors. Historically confined to the area between Mulberry, Madison, Clay, and Ridge Row, the University has expanded facilities immensely since the late 1980's and now affiliated buildings stretch as far north as Jefferson Avenue with more southeasterly expansion planned for additional student housing. This mass of students is quickly demanding standard services such as pizza, bars, and coffee houses and is transforming the Mulberry Street corridor building by building into a collegetown type area.

Getting Around Scranton

The County of Lackawanna Transit System, COLTS, is the only form of public intra-urban transportation in the county. Unfortunately there is currently no access to the airport despite the presence of a Pittston/Avoca route. The 24 routes serve virtually all city neighborhoods as well as county outposts such as Daleville with all buses emminating from 101 Wyoming Ave, the old Globe Store.

Accomodations in Scranton

I cannot speak from experience on any area hotels aside from having my prom at the Radisson. I'll include only downtown options making everything foot or bus accessible. Price range is for a 4/11 booking.

Hilton Scranton & Conference Center
100 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA
Located across the street from the former site of the Historic Hotel Casey, the Hilton has a complementary airport shuttle to go along with $99-$109 standard room rates. The Trolley's Bistro and Casey's Corner Restaurants as well as P.J.'s 1910 Pub are located in the building while Molly Brannigan's Irish Pub is located across the street on the ground floor of the main parking garage.

Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel
700 Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton, PA
One of the most beautiful buildings you'll ever see, this six-story landmark in the Beaux Arts style was designed as the primary train station and offices of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western by Murchison & Langley. Built in 1908, it is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Internal dining options include Carmen's Ristorante and Wine Bar, Scranton's only four diamond rated restaurant and Trax, a martini bar located in what appears to be a meticulously restored passenger waiting area. All this restoration and history has a price, rooms rates range from $149 (with Sleep Number Bed!) to $199 (with Jacuzzi Suite!).

Red Carpet Inn and Suites
320 Franklin Avenue, Scranton, PA
Pretty standard economical option. Exterior doors to all rooms with wireless internet and continental breakfast. Just blocks to pretty much everything mentioned in this study for around $53. Just one block from The Banshee, an excellent restoration project in its own right.

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