(Another in a series on the past, present and future of empty city buildings.)

Penn Power turned the lights off at its downtown New Castle headquarters nearly 14 years ago.

The building has remained in the dark ever since.

Built in the early 1960s as the electric utility's headquarters, the vacant 42,000-square-foot structure on Kennedy Square is currently owned by the Paul Lynch Foundation, which purchased it at a Dec. 3, 2005 auction.

According to a Nov. 19, 2005, New Castle News article on the upcoming auction, Penn Power signed a 25-year lease on the facility on June 11, 1962. The utility, which has been the only occupant of the structure, moved out on Sept. 30, 2003.

Designed by the architectural firm of Thayer, Menges, St. John and Associates, the structure was one of the first all-electric facilities in the area. Actually comprised of two buildings, one three stories and another two stories, it housed more than 150 employees.

Constructed by Matthew Leivo and Sons Builders Inc., the structure's open floor plan featured an auditorium and a full kitchen, which was the site of many cooking demonstrations using the electric appliances sold in the building's retail area.

In 1997, Penn Power was acquired by Akron-based First Energy with most offices and employees relocated to Ohio by the time the building was vacated in 2003.

Through the years, the Paul Lynch Foundation has allowed the city of New Castle to store its Christmas decorations in the building free of charge. Other nonprofit agencies have also made occasional use of the space.

In 2015, the Human Services Center began making plans, which were later withdrawn, to convert the office building into veterans' housing.

Attorney Paul Lynch of the foundation said he'd like to open a business incubator at the site, offering space to start-up companies for free or at reduced cost. Part of that plan may involve tearing down the structure's three-story portion for more parking, he said, adding that he would keep the part of the building that fronts on East Washington Street. 

Noting that he believes downtown New Castle is "over built" with many buildings in need of demolition, Lynch said he was "just one guy trying to do a lot of work."

"We're trying to fix them up; it's what we do," he said. "The majority of people who own real estate want to do something with it and keep it up.

"This town's been good to me, but it's hard to do business with the high taxes," he continued, explaining that taxes and regulations make it "cost prohibitive to develop."

Referring to Speedway, a major company needing two years to get started on its demolition and construction project in downtown New Castle, Lynch said, "Imagine what it's like for the little guy."

(Email: rgendreau@ncnewsonline.com)

Renee Gendreau is a lifestyles reporter at the New Castle News. Email her at rgendreau@ncnewsonline.com.

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