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South Strabane retail strip damaged by land movement razed after 4 years

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Nearly five years after J.C. Penney and two other retailers abandoned stores at The Foundry in South Strabane, the center's owner is tearing down stores damaged by land subsidence and may remove part of a large retaining wall at the site.

Six stores are being demolished, Michael H. Staenberg, partner and president of The Staenberg Group, said on Tuesday. The vacant Penney's will be left standing because the department store chain owns that building, he said.

Mosites Development Co. of Robinson is the contractor for the development and is handling the demolition work, Staenberg said.

South Strabane Manager John Stickle said the township issued a demolition permit but hasn't seen any plans to redevelop the complex.

Staenberg said his St. Louis-based commercial real estate and investment firm could have news about the site “in about 60 days.”

By razing the damaged stores, “It's an opportunity to create something that is better than what was there before,” he said.

Stickle said township officials “would like to see The Foundry come back and get going again. The fact that they are demolishing the old buildings is a good sign.”

The Foundry opened in 2007 along Route 19 with Penney's, relocated from nearby Washington Mall, as its anchor.

But the department store, Bed Bath & Beyond and Ross Dress for Less closed in the early summer of 2008 after engineers found soil movement was causing cracks in the buildings. Original developer Premier Properties USA Inc. of Indianapolis went bankrupt around the same time.

A recently opened Olive Garden restaurant and a Max & Erma's at the opposite end of the center from the damaged stores are the only businesses there now. Penney's moved its store back to the mall.

Waterways and wetlands officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection are working on an amendment to a previous permit, to cover changes to an 80-foot-high retaining wall behind the center, DEP spokesman John Poister said.

The amendment would require work to an already-impacted wetland, he said. “We are in the beginning stages of the review of the amendment. This is a process that could take several months,” he said.

Staenberg said the wall “is fine,” but part of it will be torn down to accommodate a next phase of development.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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