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March 25, 2012

Act 47 team recommends development corporation, Arts Center share Riverplex space

NEW CASTLE — New Castle’s Act 47 recovery team has made a recommendation regarding the Cascade Center at the Riverplex.

The recommendation is contained in a March 19 memorandum suggesting two entities share space in the building at the corner of East Washington and Mill streets. The memorandum was sent to city council and the administration this week.

The two entities submitting proposals to develop the building are the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. and the New Castle Center for Arts and Technology.

Both entities have requested most of about $1.8 million remaining from a state grant to buy the building.

On Thursday, city council voted to give the city solicitor the go-ahead to begin negotiations on a cooperation agreement solely with the development corporation.

The recovery team said it met with both entities on March 6. The memorandum states that the arts and technology center “would obviously be a terrific addition to New Castle.”

The center would be an affiliate of the National Center for Arts and Technology, a subsidiary company of Manchester Bidwell Corp. in Pittsburgh.

“Although we are concerned about the amount of time and effort required to get the program funded and running at the Riverplex and the fact that Dayna (Sear) has no current control over the building, we do think that some amount of ‘start-up’ space at the Riverplex could be made available” to the project “to get started while tenants are sought for the remainder of the building,” the memorandum says.

Sear is the leading advocate for the arts and technology center.

The memorandum says the development corporation has more experience with projects of this type and has negotiated a sales agreement with the bank, the team said. Plus, discussions with some potential tenants, including Refresh Dental, have been initiated.

Refresh Dental is based in Canfield, Ohio. According to its website, it has dental offices in Ohio and Pennsylvania, provides laboratory services and training of dental assistants.

The Act 47 team said that unless council and the mayor “have current, alternative ideas” for redeveloping the building, it would support the LCEDC proposal with the following considerations in addition to allowing some space to be rented for the arts and technology center:

•The city should consider how much of the state grant should be retained for projects other than the Riverplex.

•The city should establish benchmarks for leasing of space and require regular status reports by the LCEDC.

The Act 47 team also said it doesn’t see any advantage to the LCEDC turning title of the building to the city. The corporation “should be willing to see the project through to success,” it says, adding that the city doesn’t have the resources to redevelop the Riverplex.

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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