Campus Community Speculates On Surrounding Demolitions

by James Leonard and Ann Siock | Staff Writers

SCRANTON — The University of Scranton is beginning demolitions of several buildings just outside of campus, and speculations on the future use of the buildings are swirling.

On the morning of March 13, workers could be seen powerwashing the old funeral home across from Elm Park United Methodist Church on Linden street. A sign above the building read “Student Housing Available.”

Since then, that the sign has been removed.

As of now, 317 Madison Ave., the Carey Law Office Building and the garage/warehouse on Madison Avenue are all fenced off. Workers are actively surveying the sight for demolition.

Early morning Tuesday, pickup trucks carried debris down Linden Street. One on-site worker confirmed that they were preparing to demolish several of the buildings, and the fences were erected for safety reasons.

Edward J. Steinmetz, Jr., C.P.A., University Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration, sent out an official confirmation of the project in an email the same day addressed to all students. Steinmetz said the demolition process is set to begin next week.

According to Steinmetz, “On Friday, March 19, the University will begin demolition of vacant structures on four properties it owns on the west side of the 300 block of Madison Avenue from the apartment complex at 317 Madison Ave., to the building and garage on the corner of Madison Avenue and Mulberry Street.”

Although nothing has been confirmed yet, rumors are circulating around campus that the space off of Madison Avenue will be a conference center that may be dedicated to late University President Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. No official word on the matter has been released as of now.

University Director of News and Media Relations Stan Zygmunt did not say what the future use of the buildings will be.

“As stated, we have not yet determined the future use of the site,” Zygmunt said.

Steinmetz said the demolition is expected to be completed in three to four weeks, unless there are delays due to weather or other factors. There will be safety measures put into place throughout the duration of the project, such as tall fences, traffic cones and tape to ensure student safety.

Petitioning for Parking

Earlier this week, students were concerned that the Madison Avenue student and faculty parking lot would be closed amidst the demolition.

Junior occupational therapy major Erin Horan filed a petition against the Parking Commission regarding the potential closure of Madison Avenue parking.

“I and many other students have had some concerns regarding the on-campus parking situation with the closing of the Madison parking lot,” Horan said. “There is already a limited amount of parking spaces on campus, and it has been difficult for many of us to find available parking spots. The closing of the Madison lots will certainly be an added limitation and stressor for students.”

Parking Services Coordinator Catherine Sanderson responded by confirming that the lot would not be closed.

“The Madison lot is not closing. The demolition and lot closures do not effect resident student parking,” Sanderson said. “The construction is on the 300 block of Madison. The Madison lot (M) is on the 400 block of Madison.”

The only parking that will not be available to students and faculty during the three to four week period is the 300 block of Madison Avenue, which extends from Linden to Mulberry Street along Brennan Hall on campus.

Other Roadblocks Around Campus

Vehicular street traffic on the rest of Madison Avenue, Mulberry Street and McKenna Court will remain open during a majority of the demolition period.

A portion of the Elm Park United Methodist Church parking lot will be blocked for about one week, while the apartment building adjacent to the lot is taken down.

This may cause some trouble for pedestrian traffic directed toward Hyland, Leahy and O’Hara Halls. According to Steinmetz’s email, foot traffic will be rerouted to the east side of Madison Avenue during this period. All activity on Mulberry Street will remain unhindered.

Creating a Safer Campus

Jim Caffery, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management at the University, said demolition is set to start on Friday, with the former Carey Law Office Building followed by the former Chipack Funeral Home the following Monday.

“Three of the four buildings were vacant,” Caffery said in an email on Wednesday. “The buildings are in disrepair and are a safety hazard. They are being demolished to create a safer campus.”

333 Madison Ave. was formerly a storage area for Facilities Grounds Department, Caffery said. Another site on Ridge Row, nearer the Facilities and Maintenance building, has been purchased to replace the Madison Avenue structure.

The University acquired the Central Apartments (317-319 Madison Ave.) in 2020, 321 and 343 Madison Ave. and the Carey Law Office Building in 2019, and 333 Madison Ave. in 2008.

In accordance with CDC and Pennsylvania state guidelines, construction workers are required to wear proper PPE while on site in tandem with the additional safeguards needed for any demolition or construction project.