The conversion of a commercial building into apartments is underway in the 200 block of Penn Avenue in downtown Scranton.
Businessman John Basalyga is turning the former Delta Medix medical office building at 225 Penn Ave. into 12 apartments.
Basalyga’s realty firm bought the one-story building in April 2018, as part of having Delta Medix move into the Marketplace at Steamtown, which he also owns. He was unable to rent out 225 Penn Ave. for offices or commercial use, and decided to make it into apartments.
“The unique thing about 225 Penn Ave. is you’ll enter from the ground level on both sides” of an apartment unit, Basalyga said. “The whole exterior will be changed, so it won’t look like a clinic.”
The work at 225 Penn Ave. comes on the heels of Basalyga recently completing a different apartment project in South Side, where he converted a century-old former factory at Meadow Avenue and Maple Street into a 37-unit apartment building called the Lofts at Village Square. This 1919 building was a silk mill, a pants factory and a showroom of Giant Floor and Wall Covering Co., before falling vacant in recent years.
The two projects reflect a trend of growing demand for apartments in the city, in both the downtown and neighborhoods.
“It was fully rented even before we finished” the renovation, Basalyga said of the Lofts at Village Square.
In recent years, the growing number of apartment dwellers has included young professionals and 30-somethings — some relocated from New York or Philadelphia to work form home — and empty nesters and retirees, drawn to the city’s mix of urban living and small-town feel.
“I think it’s convenience,” Basalyga said of demand for apartments. “I think it’s still a good value compared to other cities. In Scranton, give credit to our Police and Fire Departments. It’s a safe city.”
Developer Charles Jefferson, who converted the Connell, 426 Mulberry, Samter’s and Stoehr & Fister buildings into apartments, expects demand for apartments to continue.
The pandemic only increased interest in Scranton, as people rethink where they spend their time and work, he said.
Scranton officials began a “Work from Here” strategy last year, marketing the city to remote workers as an affordable alternative to more expensive metropolises.
“The short answer to demand for apartments is there’s a demand for apartments,” Jefferson said. “I don’t see that ending. The downtown has so many factors that make it attractive and I don’t see that going away.”
Jefferson’s company began renting out apartments at the Stoehr and Fister building in November.
“As of (Thursday) morning, we have 56 out 65 units leased (at Stoehr and Fister), which is a great testament to the market,” Jefferson said.
Basalyga received zoning approval in November to convert a commercial building at 1008-10 N. Washington Ave. into 33 apartments. Work there has not begun, but he’s considering switching his plans there to a mixed-office use.
“I’ll make a decision soon. I could go either way on it,” Basalyga said of 1008-10 N. Washington Ave. “It’s honestly great that the city works with developers to take these empty properties and make something out of them.”
Other projects also are reshaping some streetscapes.
Jefferson just completed a conversion of a former button/Capitol Records factory in South Side at Cedar Avenue and Cherry Street into the new home of the Scranton Counseling Center. A ribbon cutting will be held in April, he said.
That Jefferson project spurred Basalyga last year to buy the neighboring Astro Apparel warehouse complex on Cedar Avenue at Brook Street, as well as a casket company building around the corner on Cherry Street. His plans for these two properties are undetermined.
“The counseling center (project) made my interest pique in those properties,” Basalyga said.
After the Scranton Counseling Center vacates its two buildings in the 300 block of Adams Avenue, Jefferson will turn his attention to converting those spots into retail/apartment buildings.
Contact the writer:
@jlockwoodTT on Twitter.