Diners See Possibility In Empty Space On Lackawanna Avenue
SCRANTON — Candlelight flickered on exposed brick walls inside 518 Lackawanna Ave. on Saturday night.
In the empty building and properties surrounding it, a group of diners saw opportunity.
“I want them to be developed in a way that will be stellar for Scranton,” said Frank Dubas, who purchased 514, 516 and 518 Lackawanna Ave. in late 2017 and early 2018.
Dubas, who is originally from Jessup and now lives in Connecticut, invited a diverse group of friends and acquaintances to view the properties and think of possibilities. Calling it the 517 Bogart Project, named for the court behind the properties that features small shops and businesses, Dubas said no plans are final yet.
Guests included neo-expressionist artist Hunt Slonem, who has transformed the Col. Louis Watres Armory into a showplace for his collection and owns the former Woolworth mansion in Scranton; internationally recognized architect Peter Bohlin, who lives in Waverly Twp.; Sean Strub, owner of Hotel Fauchère in Milford; and New York City resident John Berendt, author of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” a New York Times best-seller and a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction.
Portable patio heaters provided warmth as the guests arrived and sipped prosecco. A Christmas tree glowed in the corner. Candelabras provided light for the dinner, which included squash soup, beet salad, bay scallops, and pork and duck dishes. The chef from Hotel Fauchère prepared the meal behind a curtain in the space.
Dubas, a trustee at the University of Scranton — who retired as a global managing partner for sovereign financial institutions at Deloitte, a New York City-based tax, auditing, business consulting and financial advisory services firm — said he wants his project to bring vibrancy and a buzz to Scranton. Dubas’ purchases also include the space occupied by the AFA Gallery, but he said the gallery will stay there. The empty space at 518 Lackawanna Ave. previously housed vintage store On&On.
“Scranton has a lot of exciting things happening,” Strub said. “This could add to the ongoing renaissance.”
In the future, Dubas hopes to continue his efforts just a few blocks away in South Scranton and hopes to start a community garden.
Before enjoying dinner Saturday night, the group toured Slonem’s collection at the armory. The artist said a new project on Lackawanna Avenue could further help a city he sees as vibrant and rich with history and architecture.
“The sky is the limit,” he said.
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