Building block

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The re-energizing of Downtown Erie has been a topic of debate and much planning for decades.
Union square was proposed as a catalyst attracting people back into Erie’s core to work, play, and most importantly live.

Almost ten years later, those who bought into the plan are left waiting. Its a very different view from the one Jim Berlin saw when he first bought union station, but after 12 years its still a work in progress.

Logistics Plus Owner Jim Berlin says “I just dont see anyone leading the charge anymore. I dont know where thats coming from, but until, I know theres a lot of political issues about it, but until you strengthen the core of the city, its hard to have it come back.This is the gateway to the city and it should be cleaned up”.

Berlin has invested $3 million in Union Station and the surrounding area.  One hundred people work for his  company, Logistics Plus, in the former train station. He sees even bigger possibilities for the neighborhood,a market, a coffee shop, more housing to go along with the current townhouses.

Berlin says “Someones got to take the jump and dive in.  But we were the idiots who did 12 years ago and it hasn’t proven to be a successful investment.So, that’s working against us.But someone with vision and guts needs to come in and start doing this, and rick is the right guy to do that”.

Rick is local developer Rick Griffith, who now owns several properties in union square. His plans for the neighborhood are unclear and he did not respond to our request for an interview. 

Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott says “With a new developer in there, i think it has new life again”.

Sinnott still thinks there is a market and a need for Union Square including the townhouses. The original plan called for more than 140 of them.  Only two of the homes have been sold, but Sinnott believes in that investment.

Sinnott says “Obviously, as more of that area develops, these will be more valuable of a market for them as well.  So, i think time will show how its going to end up”.

Union Square Resident Deanne Bardo says “I’m not particularly concerned. Were not looking to move anytime soon and if we did, we would rent this”.

Deanne Bardo, convinced by her husband, moved with him from Fairview to their Union Square townhouse two years ago.  She enjoys her new neighborhood and wants to see it grow. The Bardos like being walking distance to just about anything,  but Deanne would like to see a market close to home. Even though the recently unveiled downtown plan includes Union Square,she’s under whelmed.

Bardo says “It’s disappointing that once again they come out with a plan and yet theres nothing concrete, we have someone who’s gonna put those apartments. I haven’t heard anything that’s really exciting yet”.

Back at logistics plus, Jim Berlin is still looking for tenants to fill his part of Union Square. He’s also still a believer in the plans to turn these vacant lots into a neighborhood.

Jim says “I think that’s the right concept”.

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