Panel gets update on Cornplanter Square progress

Venango Regional Economic Development Authority board members heard updates at their monthly meeting Tuesday about the 100 Seneca at Cornplanter Square project and the eAcademy program.

The asbestos abatement on the chimney of the former Mellon Bank building in downtown Oil City that now houses 100 Seneca at Cornplanter Square is finished, said Emily Lewis, executive director of the authority. She said the work was done “quickly and efficiently.”

The painted ceiling on the first floor of the building was also discussed, as was the build-out of the fifth floor.

Lewis said Design Lab has offered three options for the first floor painted ceiling — leave it as a relic (restore a part of it to how it was originally and clean the rest but leave it not restored as a contrast), remove and replace the painting on the ceiling with a replica, or undertake a complete restoration of the ceiling.

“I think the relic concept has its merits. They would restore the crown molding to its original glory and clean the ceiling and stabilize it,” Lewis said. “There are code implications to work through,” she added.

Sam Breene, chairman of the Venango County commissioners, said there may be a presentation on the options for the first-floor ceiling as early as next month’s authority meeting.

Breene added they will also share the options for the first-floor ceiling with the prospective tenant who has expressed interest in opening a distillery on the first floor.

“If everything falls into place, you may see significant completion by this time next year,” county commissioner Mike Dulaney said.

Lewis said the cost of the fifth-floor build-out is estimated at $4.5 million or “probably higher.” Lewis said the opening of bids is scheduled Oct. 26.

Lewis said the authority is aware of funding shortfalls and has hired Clio Consulting and Grow Capital to look into the feasibility of getting a historic tax credit for the bank building project, which would generate some funds.

In other business Tuesday, Taylor Mosher, the teacher at the eAcademy, said she is reaching out to local schools about the eAcademy program and has lined up one student from Cranberry, two from Rocky Grove, and two from Titusville for the program this year.

Two students at Forest Area had expressed interest, Mosher said.

She added that she is still working to line up funding for the student from Cranberry to be part of the eAcademy. Cranberry doesn’t offer tuition support for its students who enroll in the eAcademy, Mosher said.

“It is $1,400 per student. We have never had a student pay it, we have always found a donor,” Mosher said.

Currently, the eAcademy classes are virtual due to the increase in COVID cases in the region, Mosher said.

In another matter, a draft of the authority’s 2022 budget was approved.

“No large changes to the budget have occurred, just moving around line items,” Lewis said.

She added that much of the authority’s budget is covered by state and federal grants.

Authority secretary-treasurer Bonnie Summers said the Cranberry Economic Development Committee has recently added several new members. She added the panel is focusing much attention on the Cranberry Mall.

“People tend to think of the mall as a retail space but there is not much of a future there,” Summers said. The committee wants to “get things moving” on ways for the mall to have a future, she said.