New Kensington business owner has big plans for Fifth Avenue building
A New Kensington-based businessman has big dreams for a building he bought in November on Fifth Avenue.
Sean Watson bought the building across Fifth Avenue from The Corner, an entrepreneur training center and co-working space that’s one of Penn State University’s innovation hubs it operates in association with its branch campuses. Watson runs his architecture and building material business, sustain-ABLE matter(s) out of The Corner.
The building Watson bought is a space that’s in need of overhaul, but the 39-year-old Watson of Lower Burrell has a vision for the building.
It has several vacant storefronts, one of which was, at one time, a Chinese restaurant. It also has the warehouse space he needs for his business, and there are four apartments upstairs that need to be renovated.
Watson is courting potential businesses that may be willing to locate there and would ideally like to see a restaurant or brew pub set up shop downstairs.
“Towns like this need people that are willing to answer the call and say ‘yes,’” Watson said of New Kensington’s efforts to revitalize itself.
Sarah Snider, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of New Kensington, agreed.
“We need more people doing exactly what Sean’s doing to add activity and vitality to the downtown,” Snider said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
She said there are more and more sparks of activity in New Kensington.
“It spurs excitement. All of that interaction turns into more ideas,” she said. “I think what he is doing is exactly what needs to be done.”
Watson plans to renovate the building using his business and the materials he markets to turn it into something that looks like new.
Watson has grown up in the area and has long heard stories of New Kensington’s heyday, and he wants to be a part of its future.
“I can only listen so much to people talk about what it (New Kensington) used to be, instead of (talking about) what it can be,” he said. “I’m waiting for the right people to show up.”
Until then, there’s plenty of work to do. Watson has been cleaning up the downstairs storefronts and gutting the apartments upstairs to their studs.
Within a year’s time, he’d like for the downstairs to be ready for tenants, and then he’ll work on the apartments, Watson said.
He wants to “do it right” and understands that it’s going to cost some money to achieve what he wants with the building, he said.
“These things are never on the low side of the budget,” Watson said.
Working on the building is Watson’s part of doing what he can to revitalize New Kensington.
“I don’t think we need to be the next Lawrenceville. But I think we are going to be the next better and vibrant New Kensington,” he said.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .