SCRANTON — An empty, six-floor, 225,964-square-foot historic landmark in downtown Scranton may not be empty for much longer.
According to Lackawanna County Commissioner Patrick O’Malley, purchasing the MetroTech Center, better known as The Globe Store, and utilizing it for the consolidation of eight to 10 existing government office buildings into one centralized location could save the county $200,000 per year. Some examples he gave of office spaces that could be consolidated in one building include the district attorney’s office, veterans affairs, domestic relations and voter registration.
Lackawanna County currently spends about $1.5 million per year in leases. For that amount, O’Malley said the county could afford to own its own facility, such as The Globe. He said other properties are up for consideration, but this one is his personal preference.
“We are in a situation right now with our leases, the amount that we pay, we have to move forward, we have to have a building,” he said. “And why shouldn’t the taxpayers of Lackawanna County own their own facility? Why should they be paying leases?”
“I believe that The Globe Store in downtown Scranton, which has so many memories for so many people, would be absolutely the perfect building to utilize for county government in the future,” he said.
The Globe Store opened in the 1880s and, for more than a century, was operated as an upscale department store with a small restaurant, the Charlmont, attached. It closed its doors in 1994. The building was most recently occupied for about 15 years by Diversified Information Technologies, until the company moved out in 2014.
The property is currently owned by The Scranton Plan, an affiliate of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
According to O’Malley, a sale price is yet to be determined. When asked when the decision might be put to a vote, he said that is a matter for the board of commissioners to discuss in 2016. Should the board decide to purchase the property, a move would not be immediate, with about 14 to 17 months of construction to precede.
In addition to the cost savings of bringing all offices under one roof, one fuel bill, one water bill, one electric bill and so on, O’Malley said another benefit to consolidating the county government into a central location in Scranton is the boost it will give to the revitalization efforts of the downtown.
”The new owner of the mall, John Basalyga, is working very hard to bring the mall back, and we also have the opportunity to utilize the walkway, which crosses over Lackawanna Avenue, to access the mall,” he said. “So I think this could work twofold: It could work for county government and it could work to bring the mall back.”
One way in which Basalyga is moving toward this goal is by bringing in new tenants, such as Iron Horse Movie Bistro, a luxury movie theater set to open in the first quarter of 2016, and Crunch Fitness, a gym chain which will soon occupy the former space of Boscov’s Furniture Outlet.
The MetroTech Center connects to the future gym via a 31,200-square-foot pedestrian bridge.
The mall’s leadership agrees with O’Malley’s assessment of the potential consolidation’s positive impact on the downtown shopping district.
“We’re very excited, on behalf of John Basalyga and myself and the mall, to have Lackawanna County government offices here,” said General Manager Joe Kenney. “It also instills that revitalization of the downtown as well as the work we are doing at The Mall at Steamtown. It would be a great addition to the downtown area.”