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Planned theater-to-park project in Mt. Pleasant is set to advance

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:10 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Hallie Chatfield (left), revitalization coordinator of the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Westmoreland, reviews information about the former Penn Theater at 100 W. Main St. in Mt. Pleasant alongside borough Manager Jeff Landy, borough Council President Joe Bauer and borough Mayor Jerry Lucia. The building is to be razed to make way for Penn Park at the site.

The stage appears set for demolition of the former Penn Theater in Mt. Pleasant, according to officials of Westmoreland County's redevelopment authority.

Plans for the construction of a small-but-scenic park to replace the historic borough landmark also remain intact pending review of necessary funding, authority officials added.

The authority recently awarded a contract of $56,896 in federal funding to Pittsburgh-based Jadell Minniefield Construction Services Inc., said April Kopas, the authority's executive director.

The company will be responsible for demolition of the vacant, two-story, brick building located at 100 W. Main St. in the borough's East End, Kopas said.

In its place, the authority and the borough plan to finance the installation of a site tentatively named Penn Park on the property which previously was deeded to the borough, Kopas said.

“We're closer to completing a project in a nice, downtown area that will help both residents and businesses,” Kopas said.

Penn Park would serve as an outdoor, neighborhood gathering site featuring green space, benches, light posts, signs and walkways, according to a project summary titled the “Mt. Pleasant Borough Recreational Facilities Project.”

In addition, a portion of the property would include about eight parking spaces, the summary states.

The spaces would cater to those who shop at new businesses on that end of town like Shop Demo Depot or bikers and hikers entering and exiting the nearby trailhead of the Coal & Coke Trail.

The development will also be designed to allow natural water, such as rainfall, to flow to the flower beds planted there, the summary states.

The park, designed to occupy roughly one-quarter of the space currently taken up by the theater building, would also include a coke oven donated to the borough in 2010, said borough Manager Jeff Landy.

Bricks which currently help compose the theater building are also planned for use in constructing walls in the space, he said.

“I think Mt. Pleasant does a good job to keep history alive; this (park) will be a good community asset,” Kopas said.

Before the authority can permit Jadell Minniefield to begin demolition of the theater building, photographs documenting its interior and exterior must be turned over to the PA Historical & Museum Commission's Bureau for Historic Preservation in Harrisburg, Kopas said.

Hallie Chatfield, the authority's revitalization coordinator, visited the site Friday to gather such information, which she referred to as “photographic recordation.”

“When a building is deemed historic, and there is an adverse affect on a historic district, this kind of procedure is necessary to enable people who want to know about the building 20 years from now to be able to do so,” Chatfield said.

To finance the development of Penn Park, the borough has requested approximately $73,000 in Community Block Development Grant funding as part of the county's 2013 action plan, said Burt Getto, assistant deputy director in the county's division of community development within the department of planning and development.

At its March 14 meeting, the county's board of commissioners voted to approve a resolution adopting the plan to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.

The plan — which includes approximately $2.9 million in total CDBG funding requests countywide — was then sent to the federal department to be reviewed process over the next month or so, Getto said.

“We've had pre-construction meetings with the county's redevelopment authority, and we know that things move slow and it just takes time,” Landy said. “It's in the county's hands right now, and I'm happy with the way things are going.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or apanian@tribweb.com.

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