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Schuylkill County News

Argall Calls Pre-Release Prison at GIANT Site a “Major Setback” to Revitalization

downtown pottsville giant

(Photo: Coal Region Canary)

State Sen. Dave Argall joined the cause opposed to a pre-release prison at the site of the former GIANT grocery store in Pottsville.

In a letter addressed directly to Schuylkill County Commissioners Chairman Boots Hetherington, Argall called the idea “a major setback” to revitalization efforts in Pottsville.

“As you know, many of us have been working together have been working with the City of Pottsville’s elected and appointed officials, the Pottsville Redevelopment Authority, the Pottsville Area Development Corporation and more than 70 community stakeholders in revitalizing the downtown business district. Our goal: to bring back the City as a hub for services, entertainment, and restaurants. County use of this site would be a major setback to all of our efforts,” Argall writes.

Argall Opposes Using GIANT Site for Pre-Release Prison

Argall asked Hetherington to “reject any purchase of the GIANT property for the pre-release center or other County use.” He also said, “I stand prepared to assist you in finding another site for his purpose.”

Last week, we first reported that Schuylkill County planned to purchase the former GIANT store, which closed for good on July 9, with the hope of putting a long-desired pre-release prison center at that site. That news got met with strong publish backlash – though some seem to be in favor of the idea – and a public petition campaign opposing it.

In a report appearing in the Republican Herald newspaper, Hetherington confirmed the property is on a list of pending County purchases.

Many plan to voice their displeasure with this plan at Wednesday’s Schuylkill County Commissioners virtual meeting.

Hotel Plans?

Argall says the plan for the County to purchase the former grocery store goes against all other planning and funding currently in place for revitalizing downtown Pottsville. In his letter to Hetherington, Argall says, “Two separate $1 million state grant investments are now assisting important projects identified by well-attended public stakeholder meetings to directly support zoning changes, demolitions plans, property purchases, parking garage construction. New federal grants have been invested in the PADCO revolving loan fund to assist new and expanding business plans, business development and marketing/programming events.”

Argall adds one of the main goals of downtown Pottsville planners is a new hotel. Certainly, the 2.1 acres which GIANT currently owns would make an ideal spot for a new hotel. He says an “investor lead group” has already been formed to get that project going.

“This has been a long-time goal,” Argall writes.

Read the full letter below:

Scan from the Senate of PA


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  1. Sylvia

    July 21, 2020 at 11:05 am

    I agree 100%. Use this property for something resourceful that will bring tax dollars into the town and enhance the downtown area.

  2. Jason Bourne

    July 21, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Completely agree with Argall. This city, this county needs to be brought into the 21st century. We need younger people with ideas to run for office. Out with the old in with the new.

    • Frank

      July 21, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      The city has been run by Democrats for a long time. Fat chance of any change there.

      • Jason Bourne

        July 21, 2020 at 7:11 pm

        Get real man. This is area has always been controlled by the Republicans. The Democrats in this area are moderate Republicans. You’re just a far right neocon nut job. I hate to tell you this but your views are OBSOLETE!

        • Canary Commenter

          July 21, 2020 at 10:28 pm

          Pottsville has been run by Democrats for 50 years.

          • Frank

            July 22, 2020 at 7:30 pm

            Facts don’t matter to him it appears.

  3. coalregion12

    July 21, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    The proposed Hotel beig placed in current Giant Lot would not be a great idea. The Hotel should be placed closer to Yuengling Brewery. Taking over the current Ramada would be the best option. Walking distance from brewery. Visitors could walk to the brewery, place restaurants and small shops for them to shop and dine along the first few blocks of Mahatongo.

    • Cynthia

      July 29, 2020 at 11:15 am

      I agreed the current ramada is already designed as a HOTEL space. The Giant is NOT a hotel space. However it is a great space for classes and community rooms. I propose a publicly owned community center or an expansion of the YMCA or United Way centers

      • Canary Commenter

        July 29, 2020 at 11:50 am

        The former GIANT can be razed in favor of a new building (hotel). If you’ll recall, the Ramada was actually a department store but makes for a decent hotel with several multi-purpose/banquet rooms. The city needs another hotel. Some newer events draw big crowds and force people to stay in hotels/motels that either aren’t the nicest (being kind) or are far away from Pottsville.

        • Cynthia

          July 29, 2020 at 10:27 pm

          if they are only going to raze the GIANT then they can build anywhere. They don’t need or want the building. However, if the current building can just be repurposed then we can have a community center at a fraction of the cost of building a new one. I remember Pomeroys and I remember the old hotel club Rumors. The Ramada isn’t great but a hotel, but if a new hotel group is just going to tear down the building the it can be built on a different lot. Also the travel business has recently taken a huge blow and will take even more hits in the next few months. There are other lots they can build on. It’s cheaper to repurpose the Giant so that our kids have someplace to go.

          • Cynthia

            July 29, 2020 at 10:40 pm

            Now I have to make a slightly silly comment but it’s with the best of spirit: What kind of Skook are you to scrap a useful building and just put up a new one? It’s far more modern than most facilities here and it’s still got plenty of use. We skooks don’t throw anything away.

          • Canary Commenter

            July 29, 2020 at 10:46 pm

            Good luck finding a 2-acre lot in Pottsville, especially downtown. It just doesn’t exist.

          • Cynthia

            July 29, 2020 at 11:04 pm

            must a hotel have a 2 acre lot? Why can’t we put our kids and families first on this one? It’s not a welfare state to teach them skills and make them want to stay in Pottsville because it care about having programs for teenagers rather than the kids wanting to leave as soon a they graduate because the only places to hang out are Sheetz and Dunkin.

          • Canary Commenter

            July 29, 2020 at 11:06 pm

            Because without a stable and thriving economy, there’s not going to be any kids and families left. We can’t replace a property and business that contributed substantial money to the city, school, and county with a charity.

          • Cynthia

            July 29, 2020 at 11:52 pm

            Is a hotel the only way to have a thriving economy? Most hotel jobs are very low pay. A community center that build up our youth and families pays back in citizens that have values and skills and care about Pottsville. There could be onsite Healthy restaurant and juice bar that could be run for profit.(and save money on the obesity crisis by teaching healthy eating and having good physical fitness space) There could be paid workshops. And the community spaces rented out for a fee. Generating revenue and caring about your community are not mutually exclusive. Call it compassionate capitalism and teaching our kids the value of work and investing in their community.

          • Cynthia

            July 30, 2020 at 12:37 am

            You know if there is a maker space there we’d be training kids for careers in STEM and they’d be having fun. Makers spaces are part of creating the future. That’s part of The thriving economy

          • Canary Commenter

            July 30, 2020 at 1:40 am

            That’s why we have schools and pay more money to them every year. Every community in the county has one. Teach kids to be prepared for today’s world. Kids can come out of high school making more money than the average county resident if they were taught skills that can be used in today’s world, especially in technology.

          • Cynthia

            July 30, 2020 at 9:35 am

            I agree with you that schools should be using our tax dollars wiser but it’s on the community as a whole to support and encourage job skills–not just one bureaucratic component. Schools exist to mass educate children by teach literacy (both cultural literacy in the form of general standard of knowledge about society and actual literacy) and math which can be APPLIED to job training. Years ago you could have a 4th grade education and succeed. Maker spaces are places where creative people can get together and share ideas while building things. Makers make all kinds of things. Google Makers Spaces and it’s more about lifelong learning not just for kids. Adults benefit too. Maker spaces often attract a lot of computer nerds and hand skill people but it’s not an “art” center. Maker spaces are creating lots of things. Getting together in a makers space and coding a robot that you built with other people by sharing tools and knowledge is way different than trying to teach that in a 45 minute class where no one wants to be there and the teacher might have to be reading the manual and you get graded on it. I just threw out the idea of maker space at a community center because it’s not just about learning the skills but makers are builders and when you encourage your youth (especially ages 10-18, who are otherwise bored and unengaged)to invest in doing things in the community they start caring about the community. They are being raised with values modeled by the adults in the community. A community center could be the anchor of a “double downtown” The old historic one that has limited renovation and limited meter parking and the new modern part of PROGRESS STREET. which has lot of parking and could grow with new businesses and modern buildings that are right off the highway and easy to pull into. And perhaps a hotel could go near Union Station and be the second anchor. A community center is bait for larger fish. Because while when you drop off your kid and have only an hour you shop downtown.

          • Cynthia

            July 30, 2020 at 12:05 am

            By the way, I really don’t know but how big Is the old 84 lumber lot which is empty and right next to the brand new union station. (Very convenient for travelers)

        • Cynthia

          July 29, 2020 at 10:55 pm

          also if a hotel was the top priority why didn’t they just put a hotel with underground parking where they are building the 7 million dollar parking lot? It would have been very convenient to both downtown and Yuengling tours.

          • Canary Commenter

            July 29, 2020 at 11:09 pm

            The parking lot is a bit of a confusing project, it’s true. It at least should have had some retail space on the ground level. As far as underground … that would have been an engineering marvel.

          • Cynthia

            July 29, 2020 at 11:44 pm

            Well if the ground is not conducive for underground parking (which plenty of city hotels have) plenty of city hotels don’t have onsite parking. You park a street away or even have valet (which parks a block or two
            Away) if a hotel is that much of a priority. There was an option —perhaps scaled back from a 2 acre lot but it was a decent enough space for a hotel

  4. Cynthia

    July 29, 2020 at 10:27 am

    I propose a community center or expansion of the YMCA (which is located in the old armory and not a great facility for it’s classes) The Giant is already ADA compliant, internet ready, and the open floor plan is perfect for classes, workshops, and proper community meeting room for local clubs There is plenty of free parking. The part of the street that was flooded out could be a public green space. When parents drop off their kids for classes there’s not enough time to go on a long errand, but you could go to the post office, shop at CVS, dollar general, grab a quick bite at several food places within walking distance. Also the community center would be walking distance for the kids who need something to do. Teenagers could walk there themselves and with the police station nearby, it would be easy to patrol an make sure that kids are staying away from bad influences that put them in the over crowed prison system. It’s solving the problem upstream AND revitalizing downtown. Even if it’s county owned, you generate revenue by renting out the space for events and workshops. It gives people a reason to go downtown instead of avoid it.

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