MOUNT CARMEL - The mayor and borough council will work with the Mount Carmel Veterans of Foreign Wars to transform a formerly blighted area into a neighborhood hub featuring a community garden and a mural.

Jim Kealy, quartermaster of the VFW, said the organization recently bought the lot where the National Hotel had been located. It extends the VFW's property from Second Street down the entire block to Oak Street.

Beyond the garden and mural, an even larger project is planned.

"When it's economically feasible, we want to put a hall on that (lot)," said Keeley, adding that it would be several years before that would happen.

Until then, Kealy said the lot would be used to add vibrancy to Second Street, just off Oak Street in the heart of downtown.

Mayor Philip "Bing" Cimino is aiding in the effort by working with local art students to design and paint a mural on the existing exterior VFW wall that faces Oak Street.

The mural will have a patriotic theme, said Keeley.

A community garden is anticipated to be ready for planting next spring. Kealy said the ground at the lot is rocky and uneven right now, but a crew from Northwestern Academy Secure Program boot camp is scheduled to arrive Monday morning to help prepare the land.

Kealy said he's looking forward to the community garden.

"That way I don't have to pull the weeds - let the community do it," he said jokingly.

Local businessman Vince Guarna had purchased the National Hotel property. He began razing the building in the fall and finished earlier this year. He said he hadn't originally intended to sell the lot, but his plans changed and the neighboring VFW purchased it.

The organization paid $55,000 for the property, according to a property transfer filed in late July.