New buyer eyes Marywood South

Negotiations continue over the sale of South Campus, formerly the Scranton School for the Deaf. Jessica Lark is hoping to buy the property turn it into a retreat and wellness center for artists.

Photo credit/ Manfid Duran

Negotiations continue over the sale of South Campus, formerly the Scranton School for the Deaf. Jessica Lark is hoping to buy the property turn it into a retreat and wellness center for artists.

Ellen Frantz, News Editor

Negotiations for the sale of South Campus are ongoing, this time with a new potential buyer.

Jessica Lark, CEO and founder of The Turning Page photography company, said she has been talking with Marywood since the end of June to acquire the property, which was formerly the Scranton State School for the Deaf (SSSD), with the goal of eventually converting it into a facility called The Elysian Sanctuary.

“We want to turn it into a retreat and wellness center for creatives and artists,” said Lark. “We want to work with the community to reopen the gym and the pool and open the building up for art classes, theatre classes and use the dormitories for artists.”

Lark said she also wants to get Marywood students involved at her sanctuary by allowing art and music students to get their required practicum or intern hours by working with her company. She even hopes to hire Marywood architecture students to assist with the renovations.

There also are plans in place to memorialize the School for the Deaf in one of the nine buildings on-campus.

“We are also very excited that we can invite the State School for the Deaf Alumni that called there home for so long to return,” said Lark. “[We plan on] restoring their museum on the campus and offering ASL classes as part of our curriculum in the spirit of using the arts to conquer language barriers.”

The property, which includes nine buildings, is listed for $2.2 million, a price Lark called “ridiculous.”

“I think they are a little uninformed about how bad the place has deteriorated in the last couple of years,” said Lark. “There is $15 million worth of renovations to be done.”

Lark said that the Sanctuary is a non-profit organization and hopes that it will bring in lots of tourists to the area and create lots of jobs.

“Our plans for each building are currently fluid and will be largely dependent on the expertise of others for the best plans for renovations, restoration, and phased opening of the campus,” Lark explained.

The campus, which has been abandoned since 2009, sits partially within the Green Ridge neighborhood. Most of the property is located in Dunmore borough.

In a letter to the editor published in the Scranton Times-Tribune on Sept. 28, Green Ridge Revitalization Committee member Samantha Maloney wrote that the committee had met with Lark and viewed her proposal as a way to “continue the charitable character of the neighborhood.”

Vice President of the Green Ridge Revitalization Committee and the Green Ridge Neighborhood Association Laura Agostini said she is also in favor of Lark’s purchase of the property.

“I think it is a great use of the property,” Agostini told The Wood Word. “[Using it} as a school and to potentially bring some Marywood students in to help with some of the things they are doing. To me, it sounds like a great idea.”

Agostini also said she believes that Lark would not need any additional zoning variances since the site used to be a school and Lark plans on keeping it a school. Agostini cited both organizations’ work with Scranton zoning issues related to a previous development proposal as the basis for her conclusion. The Urban Smart Growth company passed on the purchase of the property in 2019 after months of struggle to secure needed variances from the Scranton Zoning Board following pushback from the Green Ridge Revitalization Committee and other neighborhood residents.

Agostini said she sees the purchase of this property as a way for the neighborhood to open their eyes to the many people and companies in the Green Ridge community.

“Our committee’s focus is to have good neighbors,” said Agostini. “The Marywood South project has been a catalyst for us to be more proactive in our neighborhood to see what was going on and what kind of businesses were coming into the neighborhood.”

For now, the deal remains in negotiations between Marywood and Lark. Marywood President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D, chose not to comment on the negotiations, citing a nondisclosure agreement between the university and Lark.

Lark said she hopes to own the property as soon as possible and sees this purchase as a way to help the university save money.

“We know Marywood needs to let go of the building because it is costing them a fortune,” said Lark. “We’re hoping that by taking it off of their hands, we can help with their financial situation.”

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