Gable’s group receives funding

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has awarded the partnership that owns the Gable’s building a $2.5 million grant to strip away the plain brick facade that has covered the ornate original facade of the historic downtown building since 1972.

“It’s a big step” toward the daylighting project first publicized with an application to the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program in April, said Steve McKnight, CEO of Altoona Blair County Development Corp., which is helping facilitate the project.

But it’s not the final step, said McKnight and Patrick Miller, CEO of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp.

The project has moved through a couple of “green lights,” but still needs to negotiate another, McKnight said.

Still required is a business plan and a detailed budget from the Gable’s Limited Partnership, followed by competitive bids and a contract award — should the partnership follow through, despite the $500,000 shortfall between grant award and the grant request, according to Miller.

“The Gable’s partnership has some decisions to make,” Miller said.

Those decisions could revolve around the potential “gap” between the grant amount and the project cost, Miller indicated.

The partnership — comprising real estate companies representing the Lawruk and Devorris families — could cover the gap with money in hand or by borrowing or it could forgo the project altogether, according to Miller.

Lawruk Builders Inc., a related business, would be free to bid on the job, he said.

The business plan is due in six months, Miller and McKnight said.

The partnership is already taking a detailed look at the technical steps involved in the project, McKnight said.

Initially a department store, the building now houses 26 businesses with 184 employees.

Daylighting, or the removal of old facades to expose original ones, has become an increasingly popular method of helping restore the charm and vitality of old downtowns, officials said in April.

Daylighting the Gable’s building would be a “transformative” project for Altoona, McKnight said then.

The current structure is a “tomb,” he said in April.

Despite the remaining work, the award is “great news,” McKnight said.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere without this,” he said.