Salem developer wants children’s center built in vacant space

He says the empty space and vacant buildings on State Street could become a destination that introduces people to the city

A developer wants to turn vacant space in Salem into a children's center.

SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – In downtown Salem, there’s a plan to fill the hole left after three buildings were demolished last year with a children’s science and technology center.

The hole on State Street, and two vacant buildings next to it, could be made into the center, though it’s not a done deal yet.

The manager of Salem’s State Street Salon, located across from the spot, is thrilled with the possibility.

“It would be so beautiful just to be able to look across the street and see a nice park and a building that, like, seeing children coming in and out,” Niko Guappone said.

Mike Mancuso runs the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center in Salem, where the children’s center idea originated.

“The hole was the inspiration. It’s like, what do you do with this?”

Mancuso says what you do is renovate, and house the children’s center in the old bank building and Butler building on the corner of State Street and Broadway Avenue.

The vacant land would become a park-like setting complete with a stage, digital screen and fountain reminiscent of what was in downtown Salem 100 years ago.

He says the chances of it actually happening are between 75 and 85 percent.

“I’ve got the backing of a really solid, privately-funded foundation that’s really interested in doing this.”

Mancuso still doesn’t know how much the project will cost just yet. First, the land and buildings have to be purchased and fixed up.

“I’ve got a general contractor that’s helping us now to just build a budget to kind of give us an idea of what it’s going to take to fix the buildings,” he said.

If the children’s center is built, Mancuso says it’ll be a destination point and introduce people to the city.

“If there were a place parents could bring their children, they would be able to see all the businesses we have to offer down here because not a lot of people stop down here.”

If everything goes as planned, the children’s science and technology center would be up and running in a year.

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