Move City Hall Offices to New Building, Easton Mayor Says
Mayor Sal Panto says Easton's city offices should be inside new intermodal building.
Easton Mayor Sal Panto wants to move the city government offices out of the Alpha Building and into the new intermodal unit on S. Third Street.
Panto made that announcement Monday afternoon, saying he will take the plan before City Council Wednesday evening.
The mayor said the city would sell the Alpha Building and try to move into the intermodal -- a $26 million project that will include a three-story structure and a new city parking deck -- by the first part of 2015.
"Downtown is really the place for City Hall, there’s no doubt about that," Panto told reporters at a news conference at City Hall. "Whether it needs to be right on the circle in the most prominent building in the city, I don’t think so."
Panto said the city is having the Alpha Building appraised, and has at least three interested buyers. He said the city needs to find a buyer who will give it the "highest amount of money for the best use."
As for the intermodal unit, construction is expected to begin in April, with J.G. Petrucci overseeing the actual building of the project, but no longer acting as developer.
Panto said it didn't make sense for the city to borrow $10 million only to turn the project over to a developer.
Planned intermodal tenants such as LANTA -- which has gotten several million dollars in federal funding for the project -- and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame would remain.
Panto said he would give a more detailed view of the project at Wednesday's City Council meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. at City Hall.
The city moved into the Alpha Building in 1996.
“This was a white elephant. It made sense at the time," Panto said.
In 2011, Easton spent $200,000 on new City Council chambers. But the building is in need of other long-term maintainence, Panto said, which is one of the reasons for the move.
He added that a private owner would also get better use out of the building, which currently has one vacant floor -- the ninth -- and another soon to be vacant.
Speaking to the city's Historic District Commission Monday, Panto said the building could be a mix of commercial space, offices, and apartments.
Last year, Easton included the intermodal project on its list of properties for inclusion in the state Keystone Opportunity Zone program, which gives tax breaks to promote development.
That list would become shorter with the intermodal becoming a publicly owned property, said Gretchen Longenbach, the city's community and economic development director.