An architect’s drawing shows warm, brightly light spaces in the new Scranton Counseling Center, to be completed later this year in South Scranton. SUBMITTED PHOTO
An architect’s drawing shows what the new Scranton Counseling Center will look like at the corner of Cedar Avenue and Cherry Street, Scranton. The new center is to open some time in the fall. SUBMITTED PHOTO
SCRANTON — Dr. Edward Heffron gets excited when he talks about the windows.
The president and chief executive of Scranton Counseling Center joined dignitaries on Thursday to break some ceremonial bricks, kicking off demolition and concurrent construction at the nonprofit agency’s new 108,000-square-foot facility in South Scranton.
Scranton Counseling’s current space in two buildings on Adams Avenue’s 300 block no longer feels welcoming to the thousands of clients who come through its doors, he said.
And more than 300 staffers are eager to depart the former Sears building, where the center has been for more than 30 years, for brighter environs.
“There are 400-plus windows in this building that will bring in natural light,” Heffron said during the brief ceremony inside a loading dock along Cherry Street.
By the end of the year, the nonprofit corporation that serves 10,000 mostly poor people from across Northeast Pennsylvania every year will relocate to part of an old button factory at the corner of Cherry and Cedar Avenue.
Jefferson-Werner LLC is developing the $14.8 million project with aid from state and federal governments that includes a $4 million state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant and a $7 million new markets tax credit.
“These are not easy projects. They’re not funded from one source,” said Sen. John Blake, who thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for putting the weight of his office behind the project and called him a “champion on behavioral health issues.”
The new location lifts Scranton Counseling out of a dilapidated structure long outgrown, and a congested downtown where clients can only park on the street.
A large piece of the building will come down to make room for 100-plus parking spaces, Heffron said.
“We all know that we have a nationwide crisis, a mental health crisis,” Scranton Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said.
She applauded legislators and Charles Jefferson of Jefferson-Werner for getting out in front of the growing need for behavioral health issues in the city.
More than five years ago, the Scranton Counseling board mulled updating the Adams Avenue buildings’ facade, though everyone knew the agency had outgrown the aging building altogether, Heffron said.
The Scranton architectural firm Hemmler and Camayd introduced them to Jefferson.
“I’ll get you into a brand new facility,” the executive remembered Jefferson saying.
They spent the next five years chasing down funding to make the switch.
As part of the deal, Jefferson will redevelop Scranton Counseling’s vacated buildings on Adams Avenue, bringing new life into a block that has been slow to keep up with investment elsewhere downtown.
Inside the spacious, albeit decayed remains of Capitol Records, Jefferson pointed out towering beams and old infrastructure that will come down to make room for parking.
He hopes to repurpose some of the old wood, if feasible, into furniture or decor for the new center.
Heffron said Jefferson’s determination kept the project alive even when it grew tedious.
“He has been universally optimistic that this would happen. There were times that some of us weren’t sure,” Heffron said.
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