Erie News Now got an exclusive look inside some of the eight North Park Row buildings purchased last September by EDDC, the Erie Downtown Development Corporation.

CEO John Persinger walked reporter Lisa Adams through spaces where EDDC is working on plans to create housing and commercial development.

From the images, you can see it will take a lot of vision and work to transform the historic buildings into vibrant commercial and residential spaces.

Although parts of the eight properties have historic character, and those iconic windows, much of the space has been neglected for years. But Persinger sees only potential.  "I know from the outside observer’s eyes they look awful, and they do, there are exposed walls, they’ve been under-invested," Persinger said, "but it means there’s a lot of potential there, a lot of potential for us to work with, great buildings historic buildings, we want to bring the glory back, so we’re excited about the next few months, and the next few years downtown."

Persinger also showed us some apartment units in the Marlena Place building that were in the process of being renovated by former owner Tippy Dworzanski.  While some are bare bones, others look to be almost ready to rent. 

Persinger said because the former owner did not have building permits for the work, they will have to be sure everything is up to code before any units can be rented out. He hopes that will happen in the next few months. "What was not done  was to clear this with code enforcement to get building permits so we are in the process of bringing our architectural team in making sure everything is up to code, making sure we’re doing it by the book..."

The EDDC on making an assessment of how many residential units they can develop in the buildings and what areas are better for commercial development. 

One ground floor goal is to open up the fronts of the former Sherlocks and Park Place with windows to show off what is developed inside.  Although Persinger has plans in mind for that area, as well as the former dance studio space that over looks Perry Square, he's not saying, until architects approve the viability of the ideas.

Persinger said he hopes sharing a glimpse of the "before" picture will help the community fully appreciate the "after."  "With these buildings we want to bring life back to them, we want them to be utilized by the community we want them to draw people downtown and really spark a revitalization of downtown Erie."