West Newton bar set for demolition
A downtown West Newton bar that burned in April will not reopen but will instead be demolished and the site prepared for redevelopment, officials said Monday.
Demarchi's Tavern on Main Street was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of April 9, creating another blight situation for the Westmoreland County borough.
The Progress Fund, a Greensburg-based nonprofit, will purchase the property and enlist the Westmoreland County Redevelopment Authority for the demolition and site cleanup, said CEO David Kahley.
“We're going to hopefully be able to use it for a piece of open green space and make it ready for future development,” Kahley said.
The impending sale is yet another chapter in the Progress Fund's long involvement with economic development in West Newton, where the nonprofit has funded several business startups and numerous improvements to the West Newton Trailhead of the Youghiogheny River.
Costs associated with the Demarchi's sale and demolition — about $60,000 — exceed the building's appraised value of $30,000, he said. Funding will come from a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Kahley said.
“My focus is to get rid of the blight and help the city clean up that property,” he said.
Although demolition is months away, West Newton Mayor Mary Popovich said, “I'm pleased for any progress other than a building that's burned out.”
Property owner Michael Demarchi said he would not comment until after the closing on the sale.
The Progress Fund signed a sales agreement with the family last week, committing the nonprofit to the property purchase and funding the demolition.
Once the property changes hands, the Redevelopment Authority will proceed with an environmental abatement survey and demolition, said April Kopas, executive director. An engineer will test for asbestos-containing materials and prepare the specifications for the bid request, she said.
The demolition also could be complicated by the tightness of the space and the fact that the wooden tavern shares walls with two adjoining brick buildings, Kopas said. The structure is actually two buildings — 106 and 108 E. Main St. — that function as one, she said.
“We're really accustomed to these types of demolitions,” she said. “We'd rather do the project management to ensure the safety of the residents, rather than have someone privately do it without the experience we have.”
Kopas said this is the first time the Redevelopment Authority has collaborated to the point of demolition on a Progress Fund project.
“We will continue to work with groups like the Progress Fund to address blight,” she said.