Carbondale City Council has authorized the administration to seek a $200,000 state grant for the demolition of the Masonic Temple building at 23-25 Salem Ave.
Carbondale City Council has authorized the administration to seek a $200,000 state grant for the demolition of the Masonic Temple at 23-25 Salem Ave., after years of structural issues with the building and legal battles over the property.
Taylor made the request during a council meeting last month, explaining that the application is being filed with the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
He told the NEWS that his administration took the initiative in approaching the state about new monies available for community investments in the form of Keystone Community Project grants. He said these new monies are the result of “a couple different state programs being merged together.”
“We’ve had a large amount of private investment in the general area of the Masonic Temple, which includes the Main Street, Salem Ave., and River Street/Dundaff Street corridors,” Taylor related. “So we basically went to the Commonwealth and asked [state officials] if they would consider making a $200,000 investment in regards to the Masonic Temple to help further that corridor along and protect the investments that have already been made throughout this area.”
“They told us that they would consider doing that so we’re moving forward with the application process,” he noted.
Taylor said the problems with the building began about eight years ago, when a small piece fell off of the structure in 2004. Then, in 2006, larger pieces started falling off, and the city had to take legal action against the property owner, Paul Mastrangelo of New York, for failing to take responsibility for the building.
Mastrangelo eventually ended up spending six months in jail and, though his whereabouts are unknown at this time, he still faces stiff fines and a two-year sentence in county jail for contempt on related charges. The building, meanwhile, has languished due to the prohibitive cost of tearing it down.
Taylor said the city put the demolition project out to bid a couple years ago “just to try to get a ballpark idea of what the cost would be.”
“Unfortunately, the bids ranged from $150,000 to $600,000, which didn’t give us an accurate number,” he recounted.
He noted that KBA, the city engineering firm, was commissioned to do a detailed estimate of the proposed project, and came up with the $200,000 cost figure.
“That would include the actual demolition of the building, site restoration work, and even some minor repairs,” Taylor pointed out.
Although the Masonic Temple has gone through a tax sale as well as a judicial sale, no one ended up buying the building. Taylor said the reason for that is obvious.
“Why pay $5,500 for a building when you know it’s going to be a $200,000 property at the end of the day?” he offered.
He said the $200,000 Keystone Community Project grant being pursued by the city is a matching grant, but he noted that the city has already invested $55,000 into the building to shore it up and at least another $50,000 in legal fees accrued by city solicitor Atty. Frank Ruggiero.
Taylor also noted that the city can allocate some of its Community Development Block Grant funding toward the project to help complete its share of the matching funds.
With so much work going on around the Masonic Temple, he said he hopes that this grant will allow the city to turn the property into another piece of the overall revitalization puzzle.