Officials partnering with Wilkes-Barre to fund Public Square project laud city’s progress

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Times Leader Times Leader June 13, 2015 Economic Development

In their assessment of Wilkes-Barre, Network representatives gushed over the city’s direction while lauding Mayor Tom Leighton and other city officials for their success in drawing redevelopment around the square. David Eichenthal, NRN executive director, said many cities across the country face real economic challenges and the problems are often similar. But what could be a priority in one city may be very different in another.

That’s where the network comes in.

“What we do as part of assessment process with different cities is determine what the right level and type of intervention is to help turn around a city, or in the case of Wilkes-Barre, really move a city along in a positive trajectory,” Eichenthal said.

On a preliminary site visit in February, Eichenthal said the assessment team found “a readiness and willingness on the part of local government and partners at Wilkes (University) and King’s (College) and the Downtown Business Association who were ready to take the next step.” He credited city officials, particularly Leighton, for doing “some very tough things” already.

Leighton said he was thrilled that an independent group could come in from the outside and commend the city. “It’s an exciting time for Wilkes-Barre because we’re really rebuilding a city that was devastated and we’re doing it during difficult economic times,” Leighton said.

Project lead Caroline McCarthy said she and her team learned a lot in the few days it visited the city. “Our work will come up with a plan, and the plan is a valuable tool for providing a road map for the city in terms of what types of funds they should pursue,” said McCarthy, a principal adviser at HR&A Advisors in Washington, D.C.