$1.1 million in CRIZ funding boosts economic development in Tamaqua

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Nov. 2 – TAMAQUA – An innovative public funding program has channeled $1.1 million into economic development projects in the borough this year, authorities said Tuesday.

The Tamaqua City Revitalization and Improvement Area Authority, or CRIZ, recently received the funding through the state Department of Revenue.

Dan Evans, chairman of the authority, said the funds will finance approximately $5.8 million for business expansion and property acquisitions in the Tamaqua business district.

Tamaqua has been part of the CRIZ program since 2014, but the $1.1 million allocation is the highest amount ever received.

Indeed, Evans said, that’s significantly higher than last year’s allocation of $608,561.

“Tamaqua’s business community is alive and well,” Evans said at a town hall news conference. “Our business community and the residents of the Tamaqua area are truly the economic engine of eastern Schuylkill County.”

Tamaqua is one of only three municipalities, and the only borough, to receive CRIZ funding in the state. The others are Bethlehem and Lancaster.

State Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Twp., said Tamaqua’s inclusion in the program underscores the need for revitalization in small communities.

“It’s a very intriguing experience,” Argall said of the 30-year-old CRIZ program that runs until 2044.

The CRIZ program works like this: a percentage of sales, beverages, labor income and a host of other taxes paid to the state by businesses, workers and consumers in a designated area are donated to support economic development projects in the area.

Tamaqua’s CRIZ zone spans 130 acres in the borough’s downtown area. The other sectors of the borough are not included in the program.

The current allocation is based on $2.6 million in state taxes paid by businesses, corporations, and others in the CRIZ zone in 2021.

FourScore LLC, an Allentown consulting firm, assisted the CRIZ authority with the funding application process.

Evans said the current allocation funding secures debt service on the following projects: acquisition of the former Scheid department store at 24 W. Broad St.; acquisition and renovation of the Child Development Center at 255 W. Broad St.; acquisition and renovation of The Wheel restaurant in the former Wenzel Bakery at 125 E. Broad St.; installation of a Fine Wine & Good Spirits and Mason’s Cold Beer III at Boyer’s Food Store at 210 Cedar Street and acquisition and renovation of the former Bischoff’s furniture manufacturing building at 320 Lafayette St.

All projects except Bischoff’s have been completed.

Revive a landmark

Conrad Bischoff emigrated from Bavaria to Tamaqua, making furniture and caskets from around 1870 to 1930 in a classic 19th century brickyard at the western end of Tamaqua.

Since then, Evans said, the building has gone largely unused.

With the help of CRIZ funding, Maria Stabio undertook a million dollar restoration and renovation of the historic 6,000 square foot structure for use as a guesthouse.

A team from Heim Construction in Orwigsburg was working on the renovation as Stabio, an artist from Barnesville, gave a tour of the building on Tuesday morning.

The exterior, which still bears the inscription “Bischoff Manufacture of Furniture and Woodturning”, is in the process of being preserved. Bricks were pointed and the original windows are being restored under the provisions of a federal tax credit program, Stabio said.

The first floor will have a living room and a dining room, and four guest bedrooms with air conditioning and private bathrooms. The upper floor contains a larger guest bedroom and an apartment for an innkeeper.

Stabio, who has an undergraduate degree from Boston University and a master’s degree from Columbia University in visual arts, discovered missives from the past on a staircase and on the upper floor.

“Little Boschoff, Tamaqua, Pa.” is etched into a wall on the second floor. Wee is believed to represent Wilhelmina, Conrad Bischoff’s wife. “CB”, possibly Conrad Bischoff, was found on walls in several places.

“I see these projects as an extension of art,” said Stabio, whose studio is in a renovated school building. “They are like a gigantic work of art.”

Tamaqua, Evans said, needs accommodations for the night.

A study by the Tamaqua Community Partnership found sufficient demand for 20 rooms, which is well below the threshold for building a major hotel chain in the borough.

“The initial need for overnight accommodations,” Evans said, “turned into bed-and-breakfast.”

Stabio estimated that the bed-and-breakfast Bischoff’s Inn will open in January.

Contact the author: [email protected]; 570-628-6007

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