OLV, Botanical Gardens can reinvent Lackawanna

Several years ago, I attended a lecture with my son Mark at Canisius College. The speaker was Jack Schultz, CEO of a company that has several missions, including ways to develop businesses in small towns, some who lost their major employer and taxpayer. That was the central theme of his lecture, as well as his book, “Boomtown USA.” The book cited many examples of small towns that reinvented themselves and became successful. Being from Lackawanna and working at Bethlehem Steel, it obviously made me think of our city.

I watched the inspiring documentary “Building a Basilica,” dedicated to the life of Father Nelson Baker and his efforts to build the beautiful Our Lady of Victory. It should be obvious the focal point in Lackawanna is Baker and OLV; it is what we are known for, especially with the efforts toward Baker’s canonization. The basilica, with the Botanical Gardens a short walk away, should be the foundation to reinvent our city and redevelop the South Park-Ridge Road intersection, which has so badly deteriorated.

There are an estimated 40,000 visitors to the OLV Basilica. Imagine how many more will come to Lackawanna if Baker is canonized. What will they see when they leave the basilica? Empty storefronts and offices, a pawn shop, an old hotel that has become a seedy apartment building and a liquor store that advertises “the shot of the day”? Do our city fathers see the opportunity to change the face and image of Lackawanna?

Don Grosso