Reading’s city council voted to allow renowned retail department store mogul Al Boscov and his nonprofit group, Our City Reading, to develop a city owned prime property on the 400 block of Penn Street in the downtown.
“He [Boscov] is the most competent and most deserving of the contract,” Adam Mukerji, executive director of Reading’s Redevelopment Authority, said this morning. “He has been the biggest benefactor for the city of Reading.”
Known as Penn Square, at Fifth and Penn streets in the downtown, the site consists of five buildings, including a two-story 24,000-square-foot historic bank building and a nine-story 68,000-square-foot brick office tower. The two buildings, two blocks from Santander Arena and three blocks from the regional transportation center, are ready for use.
The other three buildings in the complex most likely would retain their façade, but most everything else would need to be demolished. The city said it would assist with the cost of demolition and site preparation.
The five buildings can be used for retail, office or residential. No plans have been disclosed on how the property will be developed, Mukerji said.
In 2001, Boscov started Our City Reading as a nonprofit to renovate old homes in the city and make them affordable for first-time homebuyers and to develop the city to bring quality jobs. To date, Our City Reading has renovated 550 homes.
Our City Reading also helped to develop the 200 block of the downtown near Washington Street with a GoggleWorks luxury apartment building, Imax Theater, Panevino Rustic Italian Cuisine and the Goggleworks Center for the Arts.
Boscov in December broke ground on a 208-room Double Tree by Hilton, which will sit directly across from Santander Arena at the 700 block of Penn Street. The hotel is scheduled to be completed next summer.
In March, Mukerji and Lenin Agudo, Reading's director of community development, hosted a bus tour that took 20 potential investors to visit sites in the city, including the Penn Square buildings, hoping to spark interest from developers. In April, the city reviewed the proposals it received for the Penn Square property.
“The redevelopment authority has worked with Al Boscov on every project he has done to date,” Mukerji said. “We think the city made the right decision.”