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Trees grace gateway to Latrobe

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 8:47 p.m.
The sidewalk improvement project is finished along Lloyd Avenue in Latrobe on Thursday, December 13, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

For the past six years, Cheryl Koloshinsky of Latrobe has mowed or used trimmers on a narrow strip of grass in front of her sidewalk, making sure she does not step into the path of Lloyd Avenue traffic.

But Koloshinsky won't have to do that work in front of her home next spring because Latrobe has replaced the grass with gray-colored stamped-and-dyed concrete as part of the first phase of the Lloyd Avenue gateway redevelopment project.

“To know that out front of my house is done and I don't have to take care of it is great. It's just a beautiful job,” Koloshinsky said.

Having recently completed the 320-foot strip of dyed and stamped concrete and planted four Chanticleer pear trees in the 400 block of Lloyd Avenue, Latrobe wants to extend its Lloyd Avenue beautification project closer to the city's downtown.

“The goal is to continue this project into 2013 by securing future grants to continue down the street with the support of the community. The big picture, with such support, is to redo the entire gateway in the coming years,” said Jarod Trunzo, Latrobe's sustainability and community outreach coordinator.

“We are hoping we can get the entire Lloyd Avenue completed some day,” all the way to the Lloyd Avenue Bridge, said Latrobe Deputy Mayor Kenneth Baldonieri.

J. Bazella Concrete of Saltsburg has completed the strip of stamped concrete from 444 to 424 Lloyd Ave.

“It will increase property values, as well as help show a unique blend of solidarity and cooperation with residents. The urban design conducive to tree planting and concrete has come a long way,” Trunzo said.

The next step would be to continue the redevelopment project to the intersection of Unity Street and Lloyd Avenue, said Ronald Weimer, the former longtime chairman of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program.

“That would be a really nice entrance” to the city, Weimer said.

The stamped concrete is environmentally friendly, permitting water to seep through and nourish the trees planted in the narrow strip by the street, Trunzo said. The trees have root barriers to make sure that the sidewalk and street are not pushed up by roots, he said.

The Chanticleer pear was selected because it should not grow out into Lloyd Avenue and create a problem, Trunzo said. It was recognized as the Urban Tree of the Year in 2004 by a survey in City Trees magazine, according to the Pear Varieties website. It can grow as high as 40 feet and 15 feet wide.

“The trees are going to make it beautiful,” Koloshinsky said.

Before construction began, the affected residents on Lloyd Avenue received a comprehensive breakdown of the project and were very supportive, Trunzo said.

When contacted in November, many residents in the area voiced concerns about the difficulty in maintaining the grass strip next to oncoming traffic. Some homeowners had to carry their lawnmower down a steep embankment to mow that narrow strip, Trunzo said.

The sidewalk improvement project was funded with a $5,000 matching grant from the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, as part of the Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program. The city of Latrobe joined with the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, its nonprofit that oversees the Main Street Program, in implementing the redevelopment project. The city's comprehensive plan includes improving Lloyd Avenue.

To pay for the improvements, Latrobe is anticipating it will be approved for another state grant in January, Baldonieri said.

City leaders intend to hold a strategic visioning session in January to discuss what they want to do next, Trunzo said.

Latrobe has been working on the gateway beautification initiative for nearly 10 years, starting with Weimer and Chad Ruffner, executive director of Homes Build Hope, Trunzo said.

Blighted structures were removed, home improvement grants were obtained and properties were built by Homes Build Hope, a subsidiary of Adelphoi USA of Latrobe, Trunzo said. Telephone poles were removed along that section of Lloyd Avenue and the utility lines were placed underground, Trunzo added.

“It took so long to do. It was a good project,” Weimer said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or