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Demolition project at Oliver's Pourhouse in Greensburg moves ahead

Jacob Tierney
| Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, 11:36 p.m.
Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg has obtained permission from the Historical and Architectural Review Board to knock down the 100-year-old building next to it to expand.
Lee Calisti Architecture + Design
Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg has obtained permission from the Historical and Architectural Review Board to knock down the 100-year-old building next to it to expand.
If it is constructed, the expanded Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg would be a modern brick, glass and metal building. The first floor would house a bar and expanded dining area for Oliver’s Pourhouse, and the second floor and basement would be leased to tenants.
Lee Calisti Architecture + Design
If it is constructed, the expanded Oliver’s Pourhouse in Greensburg would be a modern brick, glass and metal building. The first floor would house a bar and expanded dining area for Oliver’s Pourhouse, and the second floor and basement would be leased to tenants.

The owners of Oliver's Pourhouse in Greensburg are seeking permission to demolish the century-old building adjoining their restaurant to build a modern structure in its place.

Roy and Natalie Bodnar have operated Oliver's Pourhouse on North Pennsylvania Avenue for several years. They have been successful so far, and it's time to expand, Roy Bodnar said.

“All of the restaurants in Greensburg are at capacity, and that's a great problem for us to have,” he said.

The couple had hoped to expand into the first floor of their property next door, a building constructed sometime between 1905 and 1909. Its only tenant is Diorio's Barber Shop, which has been in the basement for the last 40 years.

The Bodnars said they have been working with experts at great expense for 18 months to determine whether the existing building could be renovated to meet their needs. They found the floor isn't strong enough to support a busy restaurant, and making the building structurally sound would have been prohibitively expensive.

“We really did try hard to keep the building intact,” Natalie Bodnar said.

The couple turned to Greensburg architect Lee Calisti to design a new building on the property. Calisti said it was a challenge to come up with a design that looks contemporary while respecting the history of the site and the character of the neighborhood.

“It was something I spent a lot of time thinking about before I even made a mark,” he said.

If it is constructed, the first floor of the modern brick, glass and metal building will house a second bar and expanded dining area for Oliver's Pourhouse. The second floor and the basement will be leased to tenants.

The design was inspired in part by other recent Greensburg developments, such as the expansion to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art and Seton Hill University's Dance and Visual Arts Center, Calisti said.

Calisti is a member of the city's Historic and Architectural Review Board, which oversees proposed changes to historic properties in Greensburg. At the Tuesday board meeting, he recused himself from the discussion and abstained from voting, instead petitioning the board on behalf of the Bodnars.

The board unanimously agreed that the modern building would be a positive development in downtown Greensburg.

Some members, however, bemoaned the loss of a piece of history.

“It's a hard pill to swallow because it's such a pretty building,” board member Lynn Armbrust said.

The board discussed whether allowing the project to move forward would open the door for other property owners to demolish historic properties.

All members eventually favored the Bodnars' proposal, saying any future requests for demolition would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The board's permission doesn't give the Bodnars permission to begin. It only issues recommendations to city council, which will vote on the project next month.

If it is approved, it will likely be some time before work starts, Roy Bodnar said. A lot of planning and architectural work must be done before the project is finalized. A timeline and estimated construction cost have not been set.

Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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