Window washers were outside the Steamtown Mall several times over the past week, and with each swipe of their sponges, I saw a little bit more hope from the place.
The first glimmers that something was happening popped up about a week ago when my co-workers and I took our daily walk over to the Starbucks on the street level.
There was a flurry of activity that morning. There were large wooden standees of comic book styled characters and signs moved into the vacant store windows along Lackawanna Avenue. I don’t recall the exact words, but they said something along the lines of “Wait until you see what’s coming.”
Dead trees were replaced with live ones. Topiary bushes were placed in planters long filled with trash and cigarette butts. A crew on ladders scrubbed the scum and filth off the windows and stainless steel around the doorways.
I smiled, watching them. Because it was a step.
And as a Scrantonian, I can tell you that recognizing that first step can be hard. If you’re not keeping up with what’s happening in the news (or what’s happening behind the scenes, if you do some homework), you hear rumors and get your information through that lovely grapevine that snakes through the valley.
“Someone bought the mall.”
“I heard a real estate guy who turns buildings into lofts bought it. It’ll be apartments.”
“We really need a grocery store downtown. Let’s hope they’ll finally put one in.”
“Nothing will change.”
“They’re gonna flip it.”
“It’ll be a parking lot.”
“Maybe they’ll turn it into a Hunger Games arena.”
Those buzzings? They risk that fragile part of you that wants to be optimistic about the future.
Because words are not action.
But – words can motivate action.
It’s why the conversations around the Electric City Marketplace have been such a driving force for change in our downtown. It’s why architects and entrepreneurs have given their two cents, advice, and support. It’s why I’m continuously reinvigorated by the debates I have with friends, fellow professionals, and Scrantonians who all have skin in the game.
We want to see this place get better.
We want our city to be better.
Dammit, we want something good to happen to the Steamtown Mall property.
When I heard it was bought at auction by someone local who seemed to have had success in reinvigorating other properties, I felt it was a positive move.
I don’t know this guy or know much about his business. But I had hope that this was going to be better than the status quo.
Today, I walked through the Mall and the feeling of possibility was unmistakable. While far from crowded, there were people. There were signs for patrons to get easy access to wheelchairs and strollers. It looked clean.
Although small, there was action - and that means something.
Even if it’s just a feeling when you’re standing inside a long neglected building, flooded with sunlight from newly washed windows.