(First of two editorials)

New Castle has two very different — and very interesting — proposals to use a now-vacant downtown building.

And it is up to city officials to decide which — if either — should be granted nearly $2 million in public funds to make one of these visions for the Cascade Center at the Riverplex become a reality.

This is the building at the corner of East Washington and Mill streets, once viewed as the foundation for a rebirth of downtown development. It now sits empty.

But not for long — at least in the dreams of the two groups vying for control of the structure. They want to put the building to constructive use, and the city has the task of making a crucial step toward determining the downtown’s future.

Seeking to gain control of the Cascade Center are the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., which touts it as valuable office space, and a nonprofit New Castle Center for Arts and Technology, which sees the building as an arts and educational facility modeled along the lines of Pittsburgh’s successful Manchester Bidwell Corp. Spearheading this proposal is Dayna Shaw Sear, executive director of the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County.

Both proposals, by the way, call for using the space once designated for the Mill Street Grille for another restaurant, believing they can make a new effort financially viable.

This week, representatives of the two proposals sat down with the editorial board of the New Castle News to outline their plans, hopes and expectations. We found both presentations to be intriguing and potentially rewarding for the community.

We also thought the two projects provide the sort of intellectual spark needed in New Castle to examine the future of the downtown and the city as a whole.

Even though the two proposals are, to some degree, in competition with each other, this is about more than one group beating out the other.

Greatly boiled down here, the economic development corporation is in talks with a business looking to relocate between 50 and 100 office jobs now in Ohio. If a deal can be struck, the corporation sees this as a catalyst for bringing more businesses to the downtown and putting so much empty space there to actual use.

The arts and technology group also has the goal of reviving the downtown, mainly through nonprofit arts programs and employment training facilities tailored to fit local business needs. Supporters of this concept also say there is room in the massive building for their proposal and for the jobs the economic development corporation is hoping to attract.

While the two proposals have potential, they also come with concerns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some of those and discuss the aggressive role the city needs to play to best serve the citizens of this community.

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