Parcels of former defense missile site in Collier up for auction Wednesday

Megan Guza
| Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

Several developers expressed interest in bidding on parcels of the former Charles E. Kelly Support Facility in Collier, which the government will auction on Wednesday, though none would disclose potential plans for the unique buildings that include a bunker.

“We've had a steady stream all morning,” facility Manager Georgiann Sekela said about developers who toured the property during an open house on Tuesday.

Most said the property holds potential for commercial uses. Two groups appear to be “seriously interested,” she said.

Collier Manager Sal Sirabella said the township once thought about bidding on the property but decided against it when other bidders approached. The property is zoned for mixed-use development.

“We'd like to see some residential, some small business, with the developer paying close attention that the businesses placed there are viable,” Sirabella said.

The General Services Administration's Office of Real Property and Disposal will auction 18 acres with about a dozen buildings, broken into two parcels.

Developer Jack Cargnoni, owner of Trader Jack's in Collier, said he isn't sure whether he will bid.

“It really depends — you don't know what's going to happen until you get there,” said Cargnoni, who has worked in residential development in Collier.

Kelly, once a Nike missile defense site, closed as an Army Reserve base in 2009. The GSA auctioned a portion of the property in Neville. The Federal Aviation Administration will keep an 18-acre parcel that has a radar facility.

The government gave 72 acres to Collier for a park, where a recreation center is set to open.

Charles E. Kelly was the first soldier to win the Medal of Honor in Europe in World War II.

The North Side native won the country's top military honor for a series of daring actions in and around Altavilla, Italy, in 1943. Once one of the country's most famous warriors, Kelly died in 1985 at 64 in the VA Pittsburgh hospital in Oakland.

The property for sale includes a 15.5-acre parcel with a commissary and seven smaller buildings. The commissary has remained open; a replacement constructed in Moon will open this year. The commissary has a barber shop and post exchange. Black-and-white 1950s-era tiles line the halls.

An adjacent 2.4 acres has three buildings, including the bunker built to withstand a nuclear attack. Its white, windowless concrete walls are nearly 2 feet thick. The Army used it mostly for offices and warehouse space.

One room that housed mainframe computers still is lined with copper — a method once used to scramble computer signals.

Craig Cozza, of Carnegie-based Cozza Enterprises, said he's interested in the property.

Cozza, who developed Carnegie Coffee Co. and UPMC East, said he has “ideas, but nothing really concrete.” He said he would need to consult the township about zoning “to make sure we'd fit with what they want.”

Megan Guza is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5810 or Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed.

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