(Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in a recent edition of the Sunday Dispach.)
PITTSTON — Michael Lombardo had a dream almost 20 years ago about bringing a college campus to the city.
The former city mayor’s dream took another step forward Tuesday as representatives from Luzerne County Community College (LCCC), M&T Bank and the city of Pittston gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Pittston LCCC Campus location.
“I’m really excited about it,” Lombardo said. “It’s a game changer for the city. We use that term. I think we throw that around a lot on big projects, but this one truly, across the board in every dimension, I feel is a game changer.”
Lombardo served as emcee for the event, and other speakers included his cousin and city councilman Michael Lombardo, Thomas Leary, LCCC president; Philip Johnson, regional president of Northeastern Pennsylvania for M&T Bank; and Sen. John Yudichak.
Yudichak said he took a math class at LCCC and, while he never attended the school full time, it’s still special to him.
“The continued expansion of the community college is indicative of the continued expansion of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s economy and continued expansion of educational opportunities for area students,” he said. “It’s great for the Pittston Area School District, the Wyoming Area School District… this is a great community. There’s great community pride and now LCCC will be part of it.”
The campus will be at 3 S. Main St., the site of the 10,000 square foot former M&T Bank building that has been vacant since 2013.
The renovation process will cost $2 million with funds obtained through the city’s Redevelopment Authority.
Lombardo, vice chairperson of that organization, said they’re using long-term community facilities money with the United State Department of Agriculture.
“It’s long-term low interest money that’s purpose is to fund projects like this,” he said. “Because of the number and because of some of the value engineering we’ve been able to do, the LCCC lease is what will subsidize and pay that note to the USDA.”
The building is being leased to LCCC for 15 years with option periods after that.
Johnson said he donated the building to the city for $1 for a $374,000 tax credit through the city’s Neighborhood Assistance Program Tax Credit.
A tax credit is when a corporation makes a profit and pays taxes on that profit, the credit is deducted from the payment.
“It’d help us make economic sense to donate the building to the city with no direct compensation from them,” Johnson said. “So, they got a (new) building, we got a $374,000 tax credit and the city will have a $2 million project built here on Main Street.”
Other LCCC campuses include Berwick, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northumberland, Kulpmont and the main campus in Nanticoke.
Leary said adding a Pittston location was a no-brainer, as the city serves as a role model for revitalization.
“What the city of Pittston has been able to do over the last several years is truly remarkable,” he said. “It’s a model for other cities and now the college is going to be a partner in this renaissance. It completes out journey of having our college in every city in Luzerne County.”
The renovation process is on slate to be completed in June 2018.
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Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher