Proposed rezoning project goes ahead

The city economic revitalization committee Monday liked the idea of expanding the Central Business District zone at the Destination 2014 project site on the YMCA block.

The committee was asked to review a proposed amendment to the city zoning map that would expand the Central Business District farther west toward Elmira and West Third streets to accommodate more retail and commercial opportunities. As it is now, the parcels are split down the middle between an area zoned for commercial service, that would permit warehousing, and the Central Business District zone, which would provide opportunity for business and commercial growth, the intended idea of the “Destination 2014” project.

“There’s no point having tax parcels bisected by different zoning,” Councilwoman Liz Miele said. Agreeing with Miele were Councilmen Randall J. Allison and Don Noviello.

Before the zoning map can be changed, the proposal will go before the City Planning Commission Monday and then before council. The downtown project is a multi-phase development that is scheduled to be presented to council later this spring.

What the city knows thus far is that Daniel A. Klingerman, CEO and president of The Liberty Group, 1500 Sycamore Road in Loyalsock Township, bought the YMCA building and plans to renovate the former Pickelner Arena into a large civic arena. He also plans to build an athletic training complex and recondition the existing building along West Fourth Street into executive-style apartments and leasable office space. Klingerman also owns other property in the city.

The city administration and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana want to see a town square idea with green space for entertainment and recreation and an area along West Third Street built into a parking deck.

The city was notified that it was awarded a $3 million state Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program grant through the state Department of Community and Economic Development toward the project. Some of the money also may be used toward another project at the former Mid-Town parking garage at West Third and Laurel streets, Campana said.

The application for submitting the grant request is June, Campana said to the committee, hinting that the original application was 200 pages thick and the one to accept the money is on par or greater. “We are the recipient,” he said. “The money is sitting there in a pot.”

Jason Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Penn Strategies in Harrisburg, works for one of two firms hired by the city for $300,000 over the next two years to find economic development opportunities and pursue financing. The other consulting firm is Rettew Associates, of 130 Court St., and its regional manager Laura Templeton.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Fitzgerald said of the rezoning of the site. “It will be the first important step to revitalizing the project that needed to occur in order for the project to move forward,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Cipolla, chairman of the Williamsport Parking Authority, which manages several of the parking spaces on the side of the project to be developed by the city, said rezoning makes sense to bring more business opportunities.