Panel OKs Fulkerson apartments request

Councilman Tim Fulkerson bought the former hotel at 20 S. Mercer St. in 2018.

More apartments may be coming to downtown New Castle.

The New Castle Planning Commission heard from Councilman Tim Fulkerson on Wednesday about his plan to add 12 apartments to the third and fourth floors in his South Mercer Street building, The Henry.

“I think it’s good for downtown,” Fulkerson said. “It can’t hurt, and if we can spur a younger group then it gives other building developers the same opportunity to look and say, ‘Hey, there’s a need for this. Let’s do it.’ ”

Fulkerson bought the former hotel on South Mercer Street in 2018, and has spent over $200,000 renovating it. It hosts weddings and other parties in its banquet hall on the ground floor and has professional offices on the second floor. It is also home to the New Castle office of state Rep. Chris Sainato.

Although construction has not begun, Fulkerson expects to spend between $100,000 and $125,000 creating the industrial, loft-like apartments.

“The view up there is fantastic,” Fulkerson said. “You can look right out the front windows. You see the Lawrence County courthouse. You see a beautiful view of the city.”

Fulkerson hopes to bring young business professionals downtown as he has been in contact with some downtown businesses who may be interested in placing some of their employees in the apartments once they become available.

Commission member David Esposito called Fulkerson a “trailblazer” and agreed downtown apartments would be a valuable asset.

“I think it’s a good use of the building,” Esposito said, “particularly having a mixed-use building like that. I think is a good thing for downtown.”

“For years I’ve advocated that we have apartments downtown,” said Councilwoman MaryAnne Gavrile, who attended the meeting as a spectator. “I believe that if we have a combination of offices and apartments downtown, it’s going to provide foot traffic downtown where other businesses — retail, bistros, little restaurants — will want to come into play.”

The commission voted 3 to 0 to recommend granting the conditional use request. Jeff Fandozzi and Frank Ross were absent from the meeting.

His next step, Fulkerson said, would be to complete the construction drawings and submit them to the city’s zoning and planning office for approval.

New Castle City Council now will hold a public hearing to hear Fulkerson’s request and take public comments. A hearing has not yet been scheduled. A vote to accept or deny the conditional use request will only occur after a findings of fact document is drafted by the city’s solicitors following the hearing.

The planning commission is an advisory board to the city council.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Maria Basileo is a news reporter. She covers Laurel and Shenango school boards and municipal government.

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