Final funding piece clears way for Scranton Counseling project

With the final financing component now in place, work to transform a former South Side button factory into a new home for the Scranton Counseling Center could start later this month.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday announced the Commonwealth Cornerstone Group’s completion of a $7 million new markets tax credit transaction to help fund the redevelopment of the vacant 108,000-square-foot building at 329 Cherry St. for the nonprofit behavioral health services agency.

Developer Charles Jefferson of Jefferson-Werner LLC described the tax credit as the “last piece of the puzzle we needed” in order move on the $14.8 million project.

“Projects of this magnitude are difficult at best to cobble together and they require a lot of resolve and creativity and resourcefulness and just so many things,” Jefferson said. “My company and Scranton Counseling worked for five years to put this together, and it’s just a wonderful thing.”

Efforts to reach Scranton Counseling Center Executive Director Edward Heffron were unsuccessful.

The rehabilitated building at Cherry Street and Cedar Avenue

will house the center’s behavioral health clinic and administrative offices, along with a pharmacy and primary health clinic to provide support services to center clients.

For more than 30 years, the agency has occupied the former Sears building and a second building two doors away in the 300 block of Adams Avenue in downtown Scranton. The two buildings are separated by a blighted vacant structure.

In announcing the latest funding, Wolf said the new location will give the counseling center the sort of facility it needs to properly serve its clients, along with the capacity to meet the growing needs of the area.

The center served more than 10,250 people during fiscal 2018, which represented a 14% increase over the previous year,

Wolf’s office said.

Construction work at the South Scranton site could begin within two weeks, with completion expected by the end of 2020, Jefferson said.

Once Scranton Counseling vacates its Adams Avenue offices, Jefferson will commercially redevelop those buildings. The developer already owns the rehabilitated Leonard Theater on the block.

Jefferson said it took a while to assemble all the necessary financial parts.

The New Markets Tax Credit Program was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investment in businesses and real estate projects in low-income communities.

The total new markets tax credit allocation for the Cherry Street redevelopment is about $10 million — $7 million through Commonwealth Cornerstone Group and another $3 million through PNC Bank

— that will produce roughly $3.1 million in equity for the project, he said.

The commonwealth is also kicking in $4 million through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which requires a dollar-for-dollar match in nonstate funding.

The project is expected to create 39 temporary full-time construction jobs paying an average wage of nearly $22 an hour, the governor’s office said.

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