Westmoreland County to help Vandergrift raze blighted, unsafe buildings
Vandergrift officials have reached an agreement with Westmoreland County to demolish vacant buildings in the borough in an effort to revitalize the area.
The vacant buildings at 142 and 144 Washington Ave., owned by the Casino Theatre and Restoration Management group, had been cited as unsafe structures and are a source of resident complaints.
Vandergrift Council President Brian Carricato said the borough reached out to the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority and Westmoreland County Land Bank for help.
“After a lot of work, we got the county on board,” Carricato said, “and they are going to handle the demolition of the buildings.”
Carricato said the buildings would be donated to the land bank to start the process. The borough cited the properties as unsafe structures last October and ordered them to be torn down.
The nonprofit theater group had been trying to find the funding to tear down the buildings, but was not successful.
April Kopas, executive director of the redevelopment authority and the county land bank, said part of the land bank's mission is to take care of blighted buildings across the county. She said the county could end up taking over the properties for further development, but that hasn't been decided yet.
The borough has expressed an interested in making the property a parking lot and park.
“We're committed to making sure the blight is removed,” Kopas said. “Then secondly, we're entertaining the land bank actually owning the property and working toward that community reuse plan with the borough.”
The building next to the two blighted properties is also likely to be demolished, Carricato said.
The former tenants, Debra Anderson, 67, and her husband, Geary, 69, were evicted this year. They ran a consignment business on the first level and lived in an apartment above it.
They had complained about the blighted buildings next door, saying they are infested with rats and mold.
Anthony Ferrante, who owns the property at 140 Washington Ave., said the building is vacant and he is donating it for demolition. Ferrante is also president of the Casino Theatre organization.
Kopas said if the resources are available that building at 140 will be torn down, too.
Carricato said he looks forward to the properties' redevelopment.
“This is huge, it's exciting,” Carricato said.