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New life could come to unused part of Arnold 'glass house' tract

| Wednesday, May 28, 2014, 1:26 a.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Old railroad tracks extend onto the former American St. Gobain glass factory property between the Arnold public safety building and Keystone Rustproofing on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Oakmont-based Allegheny Valley Railroad may purchase part of the land, now owned by Keystone, to extend rail access to the Allegheny River.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Concrete pads are all that remain of the former American St. Gobain glass factory site in Arnold on Thursday, May 15, 2014. Oakmont-based Allegheny Valley Railroad may purchase part of the land, now owned by Keystone Rustproofing, to extend rail access to the Allegheny River.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The 120-foot smokestack of the former American St. Gobain glass factory was imploded along Drey Street in Arnold in April 2009.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The 120-foot smokestack of the former American St. Gobain glass factory was imploded along Drey Street in Arnold in April 2009.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The 120-foot smokestack of the former American St. Gobain glass factory was imploded along Drey Street in Arnold in April 2009.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The 120-foot smokestack of the former American St. Gobain glass factory was imploded along Drey Street in Arnold in April 2009.
An undated photo of Arnold with the former American St. Gobain glass factory in the background.

Arnold Mayor Larry Milito is hopeful the planned sale of former glass factory property near Drey Street will herald redevelopment in the city.

“It's a sign of growth,” Milito said.

Earlier this month, council approved the subdivision of the 16-acre property owned by Keystone Rustproofing Inc. along Dr. Thomas Boulevard behind the city's public safety building. The property once was home to the American St. Gobain “glass house,” which employed hundreds until it closed in the late 1960s.

David LaPearle, an engineer with the firm PVE Sheffler, told council that Keystone is negotiating the sale of about 11.5 acres to Oakmont-based Carload Express Inc., the parent company of the Allegheny Valley Railroad.

LaPearle said the short-line railroad, which transports freight across Western Pennsylvania, plans to extend an old, abandoned railroad siding through the property to access the Allegheny River.

LaPearle said docks would enable the railroad to load freight from river barges.

Russell Peterson, Carload's chief executive officer, said the railroad has no immediate plans to use the site but wanted to take advantage of the property's rail access.

“(Allegheny Valley Railroad) wanted to preserve some industrial land along the railroad for future rail users before it converted to non-rail use,” Peterson said.

“We recently had several prime rail-served parcels go to uses that could have been directed elsewhere. Rail frontage is becoming limited so we acted to protect it.”

Peterson would not comment on whether the property could have any impact on the proposed commuter rail line that would begin just north of the site in Lower Burrell and continue to Pittsburgh.

“We have no customers interested in the site yet, although we see potential to locate business there once we prepare the site,” Peterson said.

He said there won't be any major development on the property right away.

“At this point, the plans are to acquire it and get whatever permits necessary to level the surface and get a track and utilities to it,” he said. “Until a customer's needs are identified, the track will end near the entrance.”

Peterson did not disclose the cost of purchasing or upgrading the land. According to Westmoreland County deeds records, the property has not yet changed hands.

LaPearle said Keystone Rustproofing intends to remain on the almost 5 acres where the metal-finishing company's buildings stand.

Paul Gunsallus, Keystone's president, and Dan Wright, vice president, did not respond to requests for comment on how the proposed sale would impact their business, if at all.

Keystone bought the parcel in 2008 for $1 million from Burrell Industries Inc., formerly called the Ohio River Sand & Gravel Co., according to county deeds records.

The following year Keystone razed the 18-story smokestack, one of the last vestiges of St. Gobain. Two taller stacks, reportedly built in 1918 by what was then Chambers Glass Co., had been demolished in the mid-1970s.

City and county officials in the early 2000s sought grant money for the site in vain, hoping to convert it into an industrial park.

Milito said he welcomed a new use for the property.

“This has been nothing but an eyesore since I was a kid,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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