County redevelopment authority spearheads demolition of former New Stanton hotel
For two years, Jim Conley had been slowly dismantling his family's former inn at a highly visible, 4-acre site alongside Interstate 70 in New Stanton.
“I started on the fourth floor — and I'm afraid of heights,” said Conley, 58, who used a hammer and then a Case 580 backhoe to gather up the masonry debris that he managed to detach from the 35,000-square-foot building.
It's a relief to Conley that the demolition is now complete with a $78,000 project managed by the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority.
“You have no idea how thrilled we were to have this perfect solution,” he said about the just-finished project that involved crushing untold tons of concrete.
“The demolition was a big help. The building needed to come down,” said Conley of Penn Township.
New Stanton Borough officials approached him about applying for the funds, he said.
Hallie Chatfield, the authority's revitalization coordinator, said the work was approved through a demolition-for-revitalization program using a Community Development Block Grant awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The bid went out in May and was awarded in May to A.W. McNabb LLC of McKees Rocks,” Chatfield said. “We're doing whatever we can with what we've been awarded by HUD.”
The New Stanton project falls under a renewed focus by the authority on revitalizing downtown areas, such as a more extensive project to clear a 19-acre former industrial site in Derry Borough.
The Conleys found the application process manageable because of Chatfield's expertise. “Hallie was just terrific,” Conley said.
And borough officials are glad to have prime acreage available again.
“I think it's a wonderful thing to make the property more marketable,” said Scott Sistek, a New Stanton councilman for 11 years. “I think it's a plus for the borough and the county, and I am thankful for the redevelopment authority.
“It's a good location and the new interchange — farther down Interstate 70 by the Days Inn, coming in 2015 — will make this site more attractive,” Sistek added.
Jim Conley and his wife, Carol, said they plan to lease or sell the site, ”whatever works out best for both parties and helps the tax base,” he said.
The former hotel in New Stanton was acquired by Jim Conley's father, the late Robert Conley, in 1969 due to a bankruptcy.
The commercially zoned site has been vacant for the last four years. It had previously been leased for about 10 years and used as an assisted living facility.
The property owners now work out of the one remaining Conley Inn on Route 30 in Irwin, which was the original site that Robert Conley built when he returned home from World War II.
The U.S. Army veteran and his wife, Lillian, eventually owned a total of seven hotels in Irwin, New Stanton, Monroeville, Gibsonia, Butler, Zelienople and Beaver.
“They worked hard, took over bankruptcies and built the business together,” Conley said of his parents. “It's harder to start these businesses today.”
“I wish Grampap was still around,” Carol Conley said about her father-in-law, who died in 2003 at age 85. “Every day there are questions I'd like to ask him.”
The Conleys said that New Stanton area residents would love to see a grocery store go in at the site. “This is the perfect location for a company looking for high visibility and easy access to Interstate 70 and the turnpike… a brand new hotel would do well.”
Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.