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N.J. developer wins bid for former radio station building

| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

The latest bidder on the former WCVI radio station building in Connellsville said he may go through with the purchase with the idea of rehabilitating the structure. And Connellsville officials are hopeful the developer will work to save the building instead of allowing it to deteriorate further.

“I'm a developer (from) New Jersey,” said Leighton Simpson, who contacted the Daily Courier following Fayette County's move to accept his bid of $200 for the building. “I think I'm going to go through with it (restoring the building.)”

Simpson, who said he is a plumber by trade, said he wants to “fix it up” and said he will contact a local realtor to check the building, then may send in his own engineer to check out the structure.

He said the reaction by Connellsville to quickly demolish the structure is “puzzling.”

“The building is still standing,” said Simpson. “I've done a lot of jobs in Detroit. This one (in Connellsville) is far less work. I would like to put it back on the tax rolls in the city and county.”

Simpson said he would seek a legal remedy if he received an order from Connellsville to quickly demolish the structure.

He said he had one building in Detroit that looked like there was just one brick holding up the structure, yet he was able to rehabilitate it.

Asked what he might do with the building, he said he was not sure, but would consider a storefront or storefronts on the lower level with condos on the upper floors.

Tom Currey, Connellsville's zoning and code enforcement officer and health officer, said there is little the city can do except to continue to go after Fayette County until Simpson takes possession of the building. He described the legal process the city must go through as “lengthy. There is no way to expedite it.”

Currey said the legal process requires 60 days so that the city and school district could oppose a transfer.

The city would try to assist Simpson, as long as he showed he is ready and willing to go to work,” Currey said.

“The city would look very favorably if he showed up with an engineer the day after he takes possession,” said Currey. “The city would be willing to help him.”

Currey said the city has faced problems with developers in the past who have bought abandoned buildings, including the WCVI structure, then have done little or nothing.

The city's position is that something must be done with the building and soon.

Contacted on Wednesday, Simpson said the statements by Currey “sound pretty good.”

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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