New Castle News

Local News

March 9, 2012

Commercial use viewed for Riverplex

NEW CASTLE — (Second of two parts)

It is considered the prime piece of real estate in downtown New Castle.

Linda Nitch calls the property — the Cascade Center at the Riverplex — “a real jewel in the community.”

As executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., Nitch believes the property at the corner of Mill and East Washington streets should remain on the tax rolls. Plus, she said, it is best suited as a commercial building, one that would attract businesses and professionals to the city.

In her proposal to city officials to develop the property, Nitch said the corporation has a business prospect from Ohio.

“It looks very promising.”

John DiMuccio, project coordinator for the corporation, said it would bring 50 to 100 jobs “from the get-go.”

They said the company needs 20,000 square feet of the office space available at the outset, and potentially all 32,000 square feet. The building has a total of about 74,000 square feet of space, which includes the common area and the areas designated for restaurants.

Nitch said the company could possibly own the space in a condominum-style type of arrangement.

The local development corporation is competing with two other cities for the company, DiMuccio said.

The LCEDC is one of two entities to present proposals for developing the vacant building. The other is the New Castle Center for Arts and Technology.

Dayna Sear, the lead advocate for the center, said her proposal and the LCEDC’s could coexist at the Riverplex, adding the building has sufficient space for both.

However, Nitch and DiMuccio oppose that idea.

“It’s a real estate development first and foremost,” Nitch said of her proposal.

Sear’s project, Nitch said, is “a social program with a workforce development. The two don’t match together.”

In addition, Nitch said, the corporation would pay property taxes while the other would not because of its nonprofit status.

Nitch said the corporation faces a deadline with S&T Bank on its sales agreement to purchase the building for $1.5 million. The agreement expires April 5.

Like the group with the arts and technology proposal, the corporation has asked the city for a portion of a state grant to allow it to buy the property.

Under the corporation’s plan, it would simultaneously buy the building and transfer it to the Lawrence County Industrial Development Authority, DiMuccio said. Once the corporation begins to realize cash flow, the property would be transferred to the corporation, which would then begin paying real estate taxes.

The plan is to transfer the property within 30 months, Nitch said.

If the corporation can have 50 percent of the building leased — excluding the restaurants — “we should have cash flow,” she added.

A cooperation agreement would be drawn up with the city stating that if the project fails after 30 months the building would be turned over to the city, Nitch said.

Tenants would be charged $6 a square foot for offices and $5 a square foot for the restaurants and the former comedy club area. Nitch envisions the latter could be used as a conference center.

The common area, she said, could possibly be used for small shops.

DiMuccio said they have been talking with some people about restaurant possibilities.

Of the overall proposal he said, “We believe this works with or without the (Ohio) company.”

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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