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Wilkes-Barre downtown still facing hardship from pandemic

Leaders in revitalization are worried about the need to rebuild again.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — There isn't much action on the sidewalks of downtown Wilkes-Barre now, but before the pandemic hit, The Diamond City was on a positive trajectory.

"We had all worked together very hard to rebuild our downtown economy," said Larry Newman, the executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, a nonprofit focused on downtown revitalization.

"Heading into 2020, we had seen 16 consecutive years of growth in the number of open downtown storefronts," he added, plus the addition of dozens of new apartments.

"And it was all clicking and all coming together. And then the pandemic came. And the pandemic has obviously disrupted a lot of those positive economic trends in a very dramatic way."

Because Newman says, thousands stopped coming downtown to work.

"We're now going into our 22nd month where two-thirds of the 11,000 people who had previously worked in downtown up until March of 2020 have been working remotely. They aren't here on a daily basis," he explained.

Newman says the number of people working downtown is currently about 3,500.

Now the Diamond City Partnership is pleading with people to make an effort to support businesses downtown.

"Either in person or support these businesses by getting takeout or delivery if you can't come downtown in person. Understand that the future of downtown really has a direct impact on the future of our entire region. You know, because these are the places that everyone looks to to understand our region as a whole. They symbolize our region as a whole. And they are economic engines for our region as a whole, and right now, these economic engines have seen disproportionate negative impacts from the COVID pandemic," said Newman.

If you want to learn more about opportunities to support downtown Wilkes-Barre, you can visit the Diamond City Partnership's website by clicking here.

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