John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
New Castle City Council approved financial assistance last night for Cray Youth and Family Services to renovate a downtown property.
The city will provide $50,000 to help the nonprofit agency develop a community gathering place known as The Confluence at the former JCPenney building on East Washington Street.
On Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo’s recommendation, the city will use a portion of the funds that have been designated for two downtown parking lots. The money is part of a $5 million state grant targeted for downtown revitalization.
David Copper, executive director of Cray, showed the architectural plans last night to council members who said they believe it’s a good project and commended the initiative.
Copper said The Confluence is designed as a coffee shop, serving “quality food and beverages at a reasonable cost,” but it will be more than that.
It will have a stage to provide local performers a venue to develop their talents, an art gallery offering local artists an opportunity to display and sell their work and a reading room where people can exchange books at no cost, he said.
The gallery will be managed by the Hoyt Center for the Arts, and the New Castle Public Library has agreed to assist in managing the reading room.
Two conference rooms also will be available for meetings.
Copper said Cray wants “to create a gathering place” that can have “a spirit of community.”
The Confluence “will hopefully” provide an incentive for additional development in the downtown, he said.
The estimated cost for renovating the first floor, plus adding a new roof is $300,000, he said, adding that Cray has accepted bids on all of the construction.
Copper said Cray is also securing grants for the project.
“We have a business plan we believe is solid.”
Penn Ohio Center for Arts and Technology, he said, is interested in occupying the second floor of the building and will develop that portion.
Copper said he is projecting a mid- to late-summer opening for The Confluence.
At council’s work session this week, council president MaryAnne Gavrile noted that when the city gave the Cascade Center at the Riverplex building to Refresh Dental last year, the city failed to urge the company to use local contractors for the renovations. Since city money is being provided to Cray, she urged Cray to seek local contractors to make sure “that the money stays here.”
But since Copper said bids have already been accepted, Gavrile said the city could stress its position for future projects.
Saying he likes Cray’s proposal, Mastrangelo said he believes helping a new business “would be to our advantage.”
The building is owned by Paul Lynch, who is providing a 25-year lease for $1 a year to Cray, according to Gavrile.
Transfer of the downtown revitalization grant money will leave $110,000 for construction of a parking lot at the corner of Apple Way and East Washington Street and $105,000 for improvements to a lot at the corner of Mercer and East Washington streets.