WILKES-BARRE TWP. — Most of the stores in the tornado-damaged Arena Hub Plaza will reopen before the holidays, but there is no word yet on the future of the adjacent Wilkes-Barre Township Commons.
Robert Tamburro, trustee/general manager of TFP Limited, owner of the property, said Friday he expects the stores in the Arena Hub Plaza to be back in business by “early fourth quarter” — October, November, December.
“That is our goal,” Tamburro said.
There have been no issues with any of his tenants affected by the EF2 tornado that struck June 13, one month ago Friday.
“They all are coming back,” he said. “There is no question or debate on that.”
As a result of the storm, eight buildings were condemned and 14 were listed as unsafe.
The stores in the Arena Hub Plaza that were forced to close due to tornado damage are: Barnes & Noble, Dick’s Sporting Goods, TJ Maxx, Staples, Carter’s, OshKosh, PetSmart, Eddie Bauer Outlet and Men’s Wearhouse.
Of them, Tamburro said Men’s Wearhouse is closest to reopening.
Officials with Barnes & Noble have said their store is slated to re-open before Thanksgiving.
W-B Twp. Commons
At Wilkes-Barre Township Commons nearby, buildings that were severely damaged and condemned have yet to be demolished. The owner of the property is Urban Edge Properties of Paramus, N.J.
Hardest hit was the building that housed Panera Bread, Tovan & Co., America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, LA Nails, Sneaker King, GameStop and Famous Footwear.
Robert Minutoli, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Urban Edge, declined to comment on the status of the Wilkes-Barre Township Commons or offer a status report on whether any of the businesses affected by the tornado would return.
Other buildings in the Commons are Smokey Bones, Petco, The Dress Barn, Marshall’s, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Catherine’s and Target. They were largely spared damage and reopened within days.
Tamburro said the recovery effort at Arena Hub Plaza has transitioned from an emergency response/cleanup to a restoration project.
Tamburro hired Belfor Property Restoration to handle the project. He praised the company’s work.
“We are blessed to have come across them,” Tamburro said. “And I do mean blessed. As far as our company, we are doing well. At times it has been hectic, but the name of the game in retail is speed. When we built this plaza 20 years ago, it was speed. Today, it is even faster.”
Ray Felix, Belfor project manager, said his crew has been working at the site non-stop since the day of the storm.
“And we are working very closely with all the retail tenants with one goal in mind — to try and have most, if not all, retail spaces completed and people back to work as soon as possible,” Felix said. “It’s been truly inspirational to see the community come together and watch progress being made every day.”
Tamburro said it has been a challenge to accomplish so much work in a short period of time.
“We have learned a lot from this,” he said. “When we are back, we will look back and you won’t know anything ever happened here. It is a blessing that nobody was seriously hurt and everyone is coming back online.”
Tamburro has always lived locally and his company is based here.
“We live here and we care about the community,” he said. “It’s important to us to get back not just from an economic standpoint, but from a community approach as well.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.