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Pa. Grant To Fund Warren Riverfront Hotel

WARREN, Pa. — A $250,000 Pennsylvania state grant award aims to bring a boutique hotel to Warren’s riverfront.

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement of a total of $5 million for 41 projects in 21 counties as part of the Keystone Communities program.

One of those projects: $250,000 to HIY Inc. for further development of the former Loranger building and the current site of, among other entities, Allegheny Outfitters and Bent Run Brewing.

“The project is the conversion of a deteriorated and vacant industrial building, adjacent to the downtown business district, into a modern business complex,” Rachel Wrigley, deputy director of communications with the state Department of Community & Economic Development told the Times Observer.

“The entire building is 34,553 (square feet), almost 50 percent has been renovated and this project is the renovation of 12,419 (square feet) for a boutique hotel.”

According to U.S. News and World Report, a boutique hotel is “largely characterized by its smaller size, personalized service and local personality.”

Information from DCED explained that the scope of the project will “complete the renovations to the building” and “provide a complete modern complex with multiple uses supporting retail and restaurant facilities as well as a modern hotel facility. As additional tenants have been acquired, more improvements to the building areas were made and with these improvements they will finally result in the complete rehabilitation of the facility.”

The idea of a riverfront hotel has been hotly debated over the last year with the Warren City Council scuttling a proposal to develop a hotel at the expense of Breeze Point Landing.

“The City is land locked with little additional space for development,” City Manager Nancy Freenock said on Friday. “Sites, other than Breezepoint, have been considered for the construction of a hotel but none were suitable for various reasons.”

Citing the popularity of Airbnb in Warren, she added that a “boutique hotel, with fewer rooms to rent, has a better chance of being profitable and is closer” to that Airbnb model.

According to DCED, this specific award will be “used for renovation of a completely stripped and rehabilitated area of the building. It will include the installation of walls, windows, ceilings, restrooms, HVAC, new exit stairwells, and handicapped accessible facilities including a new elevator and stairs for access to the second floor.”

A proposed timeline from the state would see renovations commence in November and be completed in April with a target date of May for a received “certificate of occupancy for the renovated space.”

The funding stream, the Keystone Communities program, is “designed to encourage the creation of partnerships between public and private sector that jointly support local initiatives such as the growth and stability of neighborhoods and communities; social and economic diversity; and a strong and secure quality of life,” per DCED.

“The Keystone Communities Program helps Pennsylvania’s towns and cities enhance their quality of life to the benefit of residents, visitors, and businesses alike,” Wolf said. “The program is flexible enough to serve the needs of any municipality — whether they’re aiming to improve their downtown, rehabilitate buildings, or create new housing or community gathering spaces.”

“As far as the riverfront development overall,” Freenock said, “the City is still working toward building a boat launch, with attendant amenities, and continuing the trail behind the HIY Building.”

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