Once upon a time, actually only about four years ago, there was a Warren Downtown Business Coalition Inc. which purchased a building on the west side of Liberty Street.
The Warren Downtown Business Coalition passed the building to Warren Main Street.
Warren Main Street was succeeded by GROWarren, although it remained as a sort of stepchild.
GROWarren went broke and then went away.
In the void, Warren Main Street was revived with a whole new board and, apparently, a philosophy that differs from that of the ill-fated GROWarren.
In the convoluted genesis of Warren's downtown organizational structure, the building in question -easily recognized by its boarded-up facade -became a tangible monument to the failure of GROWarren.
Somewhere along the line of succession, the City of Warren became the recipient of a $500,000 state anchor grant. That grant was essentially obtained to turn the former Roberti Building into the home of the Allegheny Center for the Arts. However, the city was only loaning the money, expecting it to be repaid from the rents that would be charged for those businesses that would be located inside.
And, that's where the whole matter seems to slip beneath the mud.
There were never any rent checks, because there were never any tenants. There were never any tenants, because the building was never finished. The building was never finished, because GROWarren went broke. How and why GROWarren went broke is a matter of some conjecture.
Nevertheless, the city has now demanded that the new Warren Main Street repay more than $100,000 from the original anchor grant that was spent on the building. Warren Main Street's only asset is the unfinished building, a fact we're sure is not lost on either the City Council or its Redevelopment Authority, which originally issued the loan.
Obviously, the City wants the building to satisfy the debt. What the City will do with the building is also a matter of some conjecture, although rumors and quietly expressed hypotheses abound on both counts.
No matter the outcome of this drama, with as much intrigue as late-night reruns of Dallas, we are certain of one thing: This is the sort of mess that state officials don't like to see when they are handing out taxpayer dollars in grants and loans. The next time the City of Warren goes begging in Harrisburg, it might not be as easy to come home with the cash.