Negotiations ongoing for acquisition of nearby vacated jewelry building


As discussions continue, the vacant Bartikowsky Jewelers building may become part of the Wilkes campus if a sale is to be made.

Christine Lee, Senior News Editor

The recently vacated Bartikowskly Jewelers building next to the University Center on Main Street has been the topic of ongoing discussions between Wilkes and members of the Wilkes-Barre community.

Vice President of Finance and General Counsel Loren Prescott said Wilkes has been in discussions with the owners of the former jewelry store “for months.” There has been no agreement reached for Wilkes to acquire the building.

“We will continue to talk with the owners to explore their interests in selling and the potential for the university to acquire the property,” Prescott said.

Prescott said talks to acquire the building began when Bartikowsky Jewelers announced its intention to close a year ago. At that time, Prescott contacted Bartikowsky on the building’s future use.

“We started talking about his plans for the building, specifically his plans for when to close the business and whether or not he had any planned use for the building after the business closed,” Prescott said.

Prescott also talked with the optometrist owners of Dr. Brown’s Eyecare, who are located in the back portion of the building. Talks between all the building’s owners and Prescott have continued for over a year.

Chair of the Communication Studies Department Mark Stine sees the building’s potential as a home for all of the department’s activities and offices because of its space capacity and location in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

“The space there is space that we think can be renovated to fit the Communication Studies Department’s needs, specifically in terms of television and radio station needs,” Stine said. “It takes the communication studies program, and it moves it right onto Main Street so Wilkes University’s communication studies would have a clear and obvious presence on Main Street.”

Stine envisions the radio station and a TV being placed in the front windows, allowing passersby on Main Street to listen to music and watch Wilkes TV programming, adding to the city’s revitalization of the downtown area.

“Moving to the Bartikowsky building would really support President Leahy’s decision to play an important role in revitalizing the downtown area,” Stine said.

Stine said moving to the building would allow the department’s co-curricular activities to interact with one another in a single location and with the local community.

“We’re closer to the downtown community, closer to businesses,” Stine said. “With the location there, we would probably be able to set up a camera on the roof and we could provide images of what’s happening downtown on Main Street and really engage the community because we would have much easier access to the downtown area.”

Prescott said he isn’t aware of any discussions of academic programs into a building Wilkes doesn’t own. He said any talks on the building’s use by the university would begin when it is acquired.

“If the university is able to enter into an agreement to purchase that building, meaning the sellers express an interest in selling and we decide it’s in the best interest of the university, then we would begin some discussions internally about how best to use the building,” Prescott said.

However, Stine said he would be willing to be a part of any internal negotiations on the use of the former Bartikowsky Jewelers building and has even put together a plan on utilization a building that could house the department faculty, staff and co-curricular activities which he has forwarded to President Patrick Leahy, Interim Provost Therese Wignot and Executive Director of Capital Projects John Pesta.

“Those discussions have already in many ways taken place but I think what’s holding things up at this point from them moving further ahead is the fact that the final sale of the Bartikowsky building has not yet taken place,” Stine said.

Stine said if the building is purchased by Wilkes, he and Interim Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Tom Baldino  will be strong advocates for placing the department in the building. However, he said he will continue his advocacy for the department’s centralization into one building even if the former Bartikowsky Jewelers building isn’t purchased or if the department is not placed in it.

“I still will continue to advocate to the president and the provost that communication studies needs a location and needs to be brought together in one single building, be that the Bartikowsky building or some other building on campus that we feel would work as well as the Bartikowsky building,” Stine said.