Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County — A construction crew jackhammered holes along South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre Thursday afternoon. Workers prepared for the utility gas shut-off that will be necessary when a demolition project eventually begins near the intersection of South Main and East Northampton Streets. Just across the street inside Place One at The Hollywood, expensive dresses and gowns were being bagged. “I’m sure there’ll be dust and debris flying around,” said owner Michaelene Coffee. “So, I can’t risk my merchandise being here and being damaged.”
Ms. Coffee realizes her inventory needs to go elsewhere but was still clinging to hope that her move is only temporary. She is fighting to save her structurally sound building which the city condemned last week because it shared a common wall with a city-owned structure that must come down. “I’m trying to work with the city for the best solution for both of us. I want to stay in Wilkes-Barre.”
Ms. Coffee hired a lawyer who has had ongoing talks with the city this week. “Unfortunately, it’s a wait and see game.” In the meantime, she must clear out what she quantifies as a couple thousand dresses from the store that she’s owned since 1991. A move, even temporary, is problematic. “I’d have to have countless number of racks and showcases and things like that that would take time to set up a store just for me.”
As she prepares to take the expensive dresses to storage or another location, Ms. Coffee hopes she’ll be able to return them to her business of 22 years. Regardless, she’s eager for a resolution. “The sooner I hear the easier it’s going to be on everybody then I’m going to know my time frame.”
If Ms. Coffee’s business is demolished, she would be responsible for covering the cost of taking down her building. The PA Department of Environmental Protection has agreed to waive the ten day notice of demolition for the city of Wilkes-Barre. As of Thursday, The city had yet to put the demolition project out to bid.