NANTICOKE — At 63, Clifford and Mary Lou Pomicter feel very much at home on East Main Street in the city.
Their residence, located above a commercial space in a building they own, has four bedrooms and one bath. It’s spacious and comfortable, it’s in walking distance of everything they might need.
And it’s facing the wrecking ball.
The Pomicters say they were shocked and upset when they received official notice a few days ago that a city authority plans to take their properties through eminent domain for a revitalization project.
“We are close to retirement. We don’t want to move,” Clifford Pomicter said. “Had the (city) come to us and told us its intentions, we probably could have worked something out.”
The city’s General Municipal Authority filed declarations of taking in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Aug. 28 informing five property owners their structures will be condemned to construct a new five-story, mixed use structure, court records show.
Attempts to reach city representatives, including the authority solicitor, about the eminent domain action related matters were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The condemnation notices, which are dated Aug. 30, say the property owners must file preliminary objections within 30 days after being served notice if they want to challenge the authority’s right to take the action, the sufficiency of a security bond posted by the authority or the procedures followed by the authority.
According to court filings, the authority board unanimously voted to acquire the properties through eminent domain on May 21 for the proposed housing and public transportation project benefiting the elderly.
State and city officials celebrated the awarding of a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant last month to help pay for the project, which is estimated at $21 million and called the “Nantego Development.”
The project will be on the south side of East Main Street, starting in the 100 block at the intersection of South Prospect Street and extending to the area of 6 S. Walnut St.
Officials have said it will create approximately 40 affordable senior housing units that will include 36 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom units for seniors at or below 60 percent of median income, officials said at the time. Retail spaces are planned below the housing units.
In addition to apartments, the building will house a Living Independently For Elders (LIFE) Center on the ground floor, in partnership with LIFE Geisinger to provide eligible older adults with the support they may need to continue living independently.
A parking structure will also be built into the building that will serve building residents as well as the business district of Nanticoke, officials said.
Eminent domain declarations were filed on these properties and owners, according to the filings and county assessment data:
• A four-story apartment building with commercial space on the first floor at 143 E. Main St. owned by Nilved Apartments LLC, which bought the property for $150,000 in May 2011.
• A residential structure at 6 S. Walnut St. purchased by Michael and Gloria Mooney for $31,500 in July 2016.
• A mixed residential and commercial building at 129 E. Main St. acquired by Dale R. Reams for $50,000 in August 2016.
• The former Bartuska’s Furniture Store at 147 E. Main St., owned by Denis and James Bartuska.
• A commercial/residential building at 133 E. Main St. owned by the Pomicters.
‘Very mad, very bitter’
The owner of a century-old apartment building in the condemnation zone, who asked not to be identified, said she and the Pomicters are planning to retain a lawyer to challenge the eminent domain.
The woman said she and her recently deceased husband invested their life savings on purchasing and restoring the structure, which was built in 1915 and still contains many original architectural details.
She noted the Nanticoke Historical Society website included her apartment building as one of the most recognizable city buildings, indicating it was built by Frank E. Devlin as the first “regulation apartment house” in the city. The Nilved name — Devlin spelled backwards — still appears on the structure.
Like the Pomicters, she resides in one of the apartments and said renters both young and old occupy apartments in her building and some others.
“I’m very mad, very bitter, that they they’re forcing me to spend my money to fight this,” the woman said.
Clifford Pomicter questioned why officials want to create additional senior housing when there are vacancies in several other existing facilities.
“I can’t understand why they want to build another one,” he said.
Pomicter estimated he has invested at least $100,000 in his property and has complied with code enforcement requirements, even though he argues two buildings in the block already owned by the authority have not been maintained.
The Nilved Apartments owner also complained about high weeds, an exterior pile of discarded furniture and a broken, street-level window at an authority-owned structure at the end of her block where it intersects with Shea Street.
Mary Lou Pomicter said she believes city officials have discouraged prospective commercial tenants at the authority building and others nearby.
”I think the (city) is telling the people interested in leasing or renting from us that they are going to buy it, so they don’t bother with us,” she said.
Either way, she and her husband worry about the future.
“We aren’t going to get a place as big as the one we have now,” said Mary Lou. “What are we going to do with all of the stuff we have?”
Her husband also worries about the impact relocation would have on her. He suffered two strokes earlier this year.
“Where we live now, if something were to happen to me, my wife is at least in walking distance to everything,” he said. “That’s one of my biggest fears with all of this.”
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes. Dan Stokes may be reached at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @ByDanStokes.