Economic leader shows off progress at 100 Seneca

Scaffolding rises up the side of 100 Seneca, the imposing, five-story former bank in downtown Oil City, as renovation work continues at the landmark building.

The scaffolding went up so the cornice of the building and several other spots in need of masonry work could be repaired.

“The masonry work will make the whole building pop,” Emily Lewis, the executive director of the Venango County Economic Development Authority, said happily.

All the exterior masonry work and most of the infrastructure work will be completed this year, Lewis said. The chiller for the building and an electrical component, both of which have 40-month lead times, will be installed in early 2023, she added.

Once the critical infrastructure is finished, which includes the electrical and HVAC work, the building will be climate controlled, Lewis said.

“Our structural engineer loves this building,” Lewis told Oil City Council members and other elected officials who toured 100 Seneca a week ago.

“The building was built well, it is very solid. That is a major part of why the county bought it, because it held up all those years with a little bit of neglect,” Lewis said.

Plans call for the majestic first floor to be transformed into a distillery and brewpub, which would occupy about a 6,000-square foot space, leaving some room for another complimentary business on that floor, Lewis said.

“There is potential for overflow seating on the mezzanine,” Lewis said during the tour of the second floor. She added that the back part of the second floor could potentially be an events space.

All the historic features on the first and second floors, including the marble counters tellers once stood behind, the floor and the ornate fresco ceiling and mouldings, will be restored or preserved, Lewis said during the tour.

She also noted that the first floor ceiling is in very good structural shape and may be fully restored.

“The ceiling is part of what makes the first floor unique…you are transported to the 1920s,” Lewis said.

The first and fifth floors will both go out to bid, and construction will get underway this year, starting with the fifth floor, Lewis said.

The fifth floor, which will house a business innovation center, will contain office space, co-working space and maker space as well as large and small conference rooms that will be available to the community, Lewis said.

People going to the fifth floor would enter the building by the Center Street side, not the main entrance to the first floor, she said.

“We heard from the community there was a real need for a large conference room,” Lewis said during the tour. “It was so rough when we first got it.”

Lewis said the plan is to market the space once the economic authority has a clear date when the renovations will be finished, which is projected to be in mid-2023. She added that several people have reached out to her, expressing interest in the fifth floor.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Lewis said about the interest. “The fifth floor will be unique office space. When you look out of the fifth floor and see the city you are level with the tallest buildings,” Lewis said.

As for what the building will look like when things are finished, Lewis said the federal historic standards will “set the base design.”

At this point there are no specific plans for the third and fourth floors, Lewis said during the tour.

“We are getting it done as we have the money,” Venango County commissioner Sam Breene said.

“This was a good building to do,” Oil City councilman Nick Moran said at the end of the tour.

“I’m so glad the county stepped in…I believe the Towne Square project spurred interest in the downtown,” Oil City councilman Ron Gustafson said. He noted that the new roof on 100 Seneca is a “major thing.”