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Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington will soon have 4 blighted buildings on 10th Street razed

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, 8:09 p.m.
New Kensington plans to tear down four blighted buildings, shown left to right, along 10th Street in the city. The structure at the far right along the row isn't part of the project, and will remain standing.
Madasyn Czebiniak/Tribune-Review
New Kensington plans to tear down four blighted buildings, shown left to right, along 10th Street in the city. The structure at the far right along the row isn't part of the project, and will remain standing.
New Kensington Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr. evaluates the scene of a fire at 10th Street and Fourth Avenue in New Kensington on Friday, March 31, 2017. The abandoned building twice was damaged in arson cases, which is an important reason New Kensington officials want to tear down such structures.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
New Kensington Assistant Fire Chief Ed Saliba Jr. evaluates the scene of a fire at 10th Street and Fourth Avenue in New Kensington on Friday, March 31, 2017. The abandoned building twice was damaged in arson cases, which is an important reason New Kensington officials want to tear down such structures.

Four blighted, fire-damaged buildings in New Kensington soon will be torn down.

The city's redevelopment authority Tuesday approved a contract with Lutterman Excavating of Greensburg for $37,500 to take down 419 10th St., 415 10th St., 411 10th St. and 405 10th St.

“That was an excellent price,” city engineer Anthony Males said. “We had estimated approximately $75,000 to tear all four down.”

City officials have wanted to demolish the buildings, which are near the city's zone for economic revitalization, dubbed the Corridor of Innovation, for a while.

All four are commercial properties that were damaged in fires.

“Three of them (burned) severely — you couldn't enter,” Code Enforcement Officer Patrick McGrath said. “I think the fourth one, the floor's collapsed inside, also. You have no access to get in ... to evaluate them because the floors are actually into the basement.”

A visit to the buildings Wednesday afternoon confirmed that. One even is missing its back wall.

“There hasn't been any bricks or anything falling onto the sidewalks yet, but it's a very precarious situation there,” Males said. “We're hoping to start (the demolitions) within 30 days.”

The demolitions will be paid for with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program, officials said. The city has allocated roughly $340,000 in CDBG funds for demolitions since 2013.

Hoping to raze up to 8 more

Males said the city would like to raze seven or eight more buildings by June 30 through existing CDBG funding, and would like to put another dozen or so before the city's board of health.

“That has to be done to condemn the structures, so that they can be torn down,” he said.

In addition to demolitions, CDBG funding is used for a variety of projects that target low- to moderate-income areas, Males said.

“There are some improvements planned for Memorial Park, there's some streets to be repaved,” Males said. “Some of the money from that goes for the code enforcement through the city.”

Redevelopment authority Executive Director Sarah Snider, who took over the role from Frank Tosto Jr. in January, is happy to be moving forward with the demolitions. She said blighted buildings, like the ones being torn down, could dissuade potential property buyers, business owners and people in general from coming to New Kensington.

“I think it's important to get it done,” she said.

Mayor Tom Guzzo echoed that.

Local business owner Phillipene Orr also welcomes the demolitions.

“Those definitely need to go,” said Orr, who owns Salon Po, a hair salon, and Fish King, a seafood restaurant, both along Fifth Avenue. “There were kids playing in there over the summer. They're definitely a hazard.”

The city owns three of the buildings: 419 10th St., 415 10th St.; and 405 10th St.

The other structure, at 411 10th St., is owned by David Renwick.

Renwick didn't file an appeal when notified that the building would be demolished and, therefore, waived his right to prevent its razing, a code enforcement official told the Tribune-Review last year.

McGrath also said the city has filed legal notifications to let Renwick know the property was condemned and could be demolished. Attempts to reach Renwick by phone were unsuccessful.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702.

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