Jul. 14—SCRANTON — A proposal to rename the Central Scranton Expressway and Spruce Street after President Joe Biden drew pushback from several public commenters at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
A council-created committee of officials that spent months studying the renaming effort recently issued a report recommending the rechristening of the expressway as President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Expressway and Spruce Street as Biden Street. The proposed renaming is both a feasible and appropriate way to honor Biden, who was born at St. Mary’s Hospital on Hickory Street in South Side and lived the first 10 or so years of his life at 2446 N. Washington Ave. in Green Ridge, the committee concluded.
Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to advance legislation authorizing the renaming — setting up a final vote next week — after several residents and business owners voiced concern about the proposal.
Some suggested the city rename only the expressway, which they argue would appropriately honor Biden and his Scranton connection without inconveniencing Spruce Street businesses and residents. Among them was Danielle Fleming, founder and CEO of Noteology, the boutique perfumery and custom perfume studio at Spruce Street and Wyoming Avenue.
Among other concerns, Fleming said renaming Spruce would require Noteology to change all printed marketing and other materials that bear the business’s address and alert all of its more than 200 suppliers of the address change. It would also undermine years of investment in search engine optimization and geotargeting aimed at raising Noteology’s profile and drawing patrons to the business, she said.
“So it’s something that we’ve built proudly, and we don’t quite understand why it would have to all be erased when we could just do the (Central) Scranton Expressway,” Fleming said.
Alex Molfetas, owner of Center City Print on Penn Avenue, also argued for renaming only the expressway. Noting his objections are apolitical, Molfetas argued renaming Spruce would create financial, time and resource burdens for residents and business owners alike.
“It is not right to say to businesses that this is a short-term inconvenience when in fact it is much more than that,” Molfetas said, noting he’s discussed the issue with numerous people who would be impacted.
The committee, which includes Councilmen Bill Gaughan and Kyle Donahue, initially considered the roughly 20-block Wyoming Avenue as a possible candidate for the renaming due to its prominence within the downtown business district and connection with Green Ridge. Officials ultimately determined renaming Spruce would impact far fewer addresses, and renaming the expressway would impact none.
City Planner Don King, who also served on the committee, wrote in an April email that there are about 422 building addresses on Wyoming, compared to 35 on Spruce. Those figures don’t necessarily capture all the businesses and tenants that might share a building, he noted at the time.
Gaughan — who called in January for Scranton to honor Biden with a street name and has served as the chief advocate of the idea since — defended the proposal to rechristen Spruce and the expressway.
“I personally do not think that we should settle for anything less or be (wary) of making this change,” he said, arguing “city fathers” chose to honor numerous former presidents with street names and Biden deserves the same honor as a native son. “I appreciate the business owners that came tonight and I think we all sympathize with them and … any inconvenience (they experience) because of this change.”
Officials will work people impacted by the proposed change to alleviate those inconveniences, Gaughan vowed. He added he’s heard from hundreds of people across the city and several Spruce Street businesses that support the renaming.
“I believe very strongly that this will, in the grand scheme of things within the big picture, actually enhance historical tourism in Scranton and, in the long term, will actually benefit the businesses in the downtown and on Spruce Street,” Gaughan said.
Council will likely hold a final vote on the renaming legislation next week during Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., following a public caucus at 5:45.
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