Warren City Council Approves Projects for RACP Funding

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WARREN, Pa. – The Warren City Council approved several projects to receive Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) funds during its meeting on Monday.

The city, which has $7 million to allocate, approved monies to DewBoi Properties, LLC for a boutique hotel, the Warren Public Library for its teen/youth room renovations and Warren General Hospital’s right of way proposal for an emergency generator.

An additional project in the amount of $500,000 to complete renovations on the WGH maternity ward project will be revisited, as will the city’s boat launch project. The maternity ward renovations have already been committed in the amount of $750,000, with the additional $500,000 needed to complete the project contingent upon a response from the Office of Budget regarding whether RACP funds may be used for Clark St. Parking Garage rehabilitation work.

The funds for the Wendelboe Hotel in the amount of $1.5 million would be for a 15-room hotel as well as a cafe, located at the old Watt Office Supply building on Liberty St.

This is the second boutique hotel project to receive RACP funds, with up to $2 million already approved for the Clark St. project.

Tom Christenson of DewBoi Properties said that they are also trying to acquire the old Allegheny Floral shop as well as the hold Brickhouse bar which borders the old Watt Office building. Those properties wouldn’t be necessary for the hotel, however.

“The other (buildings) would just be a bonus,” Christenson said. “That would give us space to add extra rooms, as well as a conference room.”

Christenson added that they were also looking to acquire permanent leases for parking in the Midtown Lot. The project is also expected to receive a private match from Northwest.

“I’m very excited about this project,” said Councilman John Wortman. “We have to find hotels, rooms that are supported by our public. We need to have as many people staying in the city as possible. We have Great restaurants, great breweries to get people to stay down here, and to not invest in that would be a tragedy. Our downtown is so beautiful.”

Kelli Knapp, Director of the Warren Public Library, laid out the plans for the renovations to the library, which is also receiving funding via a Keystone Grant. The RACP funding they are receiving is $100,000.

“The project was going to cost $1.3 million, but with COVID, it has increased to $1.7 million,” Knapp said. “It started out as a teen space renovation, a small room we use for teens. The entire basement apart from offices is now going to be a teen space. There’s going to be a lounge area, gaming area, kitchenette, and an area for computers for research and graphic design computers.

“There will also be a meeting room with video capabilities, green screen and video cameras. There will also be a whisper room, which is a soundproof room with a recording studio. There will be a makers space where they can learn how to do something). We are going to be providing as much as we can fund for the kids that will also be able to be used by the general public.”

Councilman Phil Gilbert spoke of his time at the library as a kid and said ‘it’s very nice to see this project happening.’

The WGH project will receive $500,000 in RACP funding, with the generator building to be located on Main Ave. This will be a replacement of the east generator. The current east generator is located in the basement and is at the end of its life.

“This would be the least obstructive location,” said Angie Dart, WGH Facilities Manager. “The new building would support the generator, which is basically a big engine that supports the hospital in emergency situations. The new one can’t be put back in the basement for obvious reasons. In the event of a flood, it wouldn’t function properly, and it’s too big.”