by Jeff Horvath
A project to build a trail linking the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail to downtown Scranton and the renovation of a downtown building housing a small-business incubator are among local projects to benefit from more than $2.5 million in state gaming grants.
Local lawmakers Tuesday announced 34 projects in Lackawanna County will receive funding through the state’s Local Share Account program, which uses revenue the state receives from the gaming industry to fund economic development, community development and public interest projects. Grants for Lackawanna County projects ranged from $5,000 to $350,000.
Heritage Valley Partners, the nonprofit partner of Lackawanna Heritage Valley, received $60,000 to supplement other grants and help defray the roughly $700,000 cost of building the Lackawanna Avenue Connector — a 1,000-foot spur of trail providing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access from the Seventh Avenue trailhead to Lackawanna Avenue in downtown Scranton.
“(Right) now there really is no safe way for people to get from the trail to downtown Scranton,” LHV trail and environmental program manager Owen Worozbyt said, noting pedestrians and cyclists currently must cross an 18-inch-wide sidewalk under the railroad bridge adjacent to South Seventh Avenue to reach Lackawanna Avenue from the trail.
“If you’re on a bike you have to get off your bike and walk it under. If you’re in a wheelchair, you’re in the road.”
The connector trail, which will be bordered by two concrete retaining walls, will safely link the larger trail with the downtown, Worozbyt said.
LHV officials hope to start construction of the connector trail in 2019, he said.
Also receiving LSA funding is the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company, the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce’s development arm, which will use a $250,000 gaming grant to renovate the Scranton Enterprise Center on Lackawanna Avenue.
Constructed by SLIBCO in 2003 and expanded in 2004, the 64,415-square-foot building houses one of the chamber’s two small business incubators and provides office space for several anchor tenants. Today, 30 companies work out of the enterprise center and provide 168 total jobs, but the building needs an upgrade, SLIBCO Vice President Andy Skrip said.
The project, which officials plan to begin this spring, entails renovating rest rooms and the first-floor lobby area of the building as well as upgrading the incubator tenant spaces and building management systems, Skrip said, noting funding also will go toward signage.
“We wouldn’t be able to do the project without this funding,” Skrip said.