Destination 2014 project gets $3 million state grant

City officials were notified Monday the Destination 2014 Town Center project was recipient of a $3 million matching grant.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s administration sought $5 million of a Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant from Gov. Tom Corbett, but Campana said he was pleased with the grant and the amount.

“I’d consider this an early Christmas present,” Campana said.

It makes it possible to start the formation of a town square with a green space on the parking lot at West Fourth and Hepburn streets and the YMCA block, he said.

“I was very pleased the governor finally approved the $3 million,” said state Sen. E. Eugene Yaw. “It was one of the top projects I had supported because I think it’s important for the continued vitality for the city and the region.”

Yaw noted the impact goes beyond a development project.

“It’s kind of like a domino effect,” he said. “It’s like ripples when you throw a stone in a pool. The ripples go out far and wide.”

Dan Klingerman, CEO and president of The Liberty Group, has not deviated from his plan to develop a $10 million civic arena, athletic complex and renovate portions of the YMCA building into offices and a conference center, Campana said.

The project scope includes using part of the existing parking spaces for a quickly assembled parking deck, known as a “bump up lot.” A portion of the grant is to be devoted toward options at the Midtown garage site, known as the Trade and Transit Centre II.

The grant will require a match of the same amount. “We have the matching funds available through private and public financial money,” said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director. Nichols said he would elaborate further on the matching funding stream in coming days after the new year when city officials meet with various potential stakeholders.

“I think it’s a major victory for the city, mayor and his team and Lycoming County and the region,” said Vincent J. Matteo, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce. “It’s not easy to get $3 million for any project any more. I think it shows the faith the governor has in Williamsport and the city and county’s ability to deliver.”

“It’s exciting and we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Matteo said. “Once the final project goes to Harrisburg it’s exciting to know the funds are waiting for us.”

Jason Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Penn Strategies, one of the two consulting firms which worked on securing the grant, said the city is the only 3rd-class city on the list to receive a grant in this round. The next round of announcements is scheduled for Jan. 6.

The state program provides grants to local communities for the construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects.

It helps to transform oft-neglected parts of communities into thriving centers of commerce and recreation, according to Corbett.

Last year, Corbett reformed the state’s method of funding the RCAP grants, basing selection on job-creation potential, their economic impact and construction readiness.

City engineer John Grado, who also is community and economic development director, said the project when done might be a $30 million investment that could produce that much in return from business taxes, earned income from wages and those using the facilities.

Corbett announced awards of 58 economic growth grants of more than $133 million.