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The vacant IUP site in Kittanning could become high quality senior citizen housing

KITTANNING -- The vacant Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus on North McKean Street is a golden opportunity for government cooperation on a special redevelopment project, borough council president Gerald Shuster says.

County Commissioner Patricia Kirkpatrick agrees, saying that if the county does buy the vacant campus, the deal will involve a cooperate effort by borough council; county commissioners; IUP officials; the state General Services Administration (GSA); Armstrong County Planning and Development, and state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana.

The IUP property is owned by the GSA, which owns most of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education buildings. But Shuster said council anticipates that the campus will be deeded to Armstrong County some time in the next month or so.

Shuster said that discussions between IUP and the borough began shortly after IUP officials decided in 2005 to move the Armstrong County campus to a new building in the Northpointe at Slate Lick business park.

Last August, the borough sponsored a public meeting at which representatives of Mullin and Lonergan, a planning firm from Pittsburgh, outlined several alternatives for development of the 1.75-acre campus and its five buildings.

The next month, following the recommendation of Mullin and Lonergan, council voted unanimously to adopt the firm's plan to raze all buildings and redevelop the site with "high quality," senior citizens housing.

Council's plan calls for the county to sell the property to a developer.

"The developer would build modest to upper-level (income), assisted-living residences," Shuster said.

White has earmarked $500,000 from the state's capital budget for demolition of the existing buildings and site preparation. He said that due to asbestos in the buildings, a rehabilitation would be cost prohibitive.

White said the next hurdle will be to secure a deal with a developer.

"This will cost the borough nothing," he said. "Moreover, the property will be a taxable property, meaning that the borough, the county and the school district will all benefit."

Shuster said some residents are concerned that the property will be developed into low-income housing that will reduce nearby property values, but he said that won't happen.

No so fast, Commissioner Kirkpatrick says. He said that while Mullin and Lonegen's recommendation seems viable, no final decision has been made regarding the property's use.

David Burdette, IUP vice president of administration and finance, said that the university's officials are pleased that progress is being made on the property sale.

"We are excited about the opportunity that this facility offers to the community and we look forward to seeing the property's future use," Burdette said.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the borough and the county," White said, "and we are happy to provide the necessary funding. These buildings have been vacant for several years and it's time to get moving on this project. I am confident that the borough and the county will work together on this with no problem."

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