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Harrison Town Center: From vibrant to troubling

| Tuesday, June 5, 2018, 8:51 p.m.
While former pillar bases to the Harrison Town Center walkway roof along the length of the property are cracked, a chunk of concrete is missing from this one and lying on the sidewalk nearby.
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
While former pillar bases to the Harrison Town Center walkway roof along the length of the property are cracked, a chunk of concrete is missing from this one and lying on the sidewalk nearby.

We share the frustration that Harrison officials feel regarding the condition of the Harrison Town Center shopping center.

And we applaud the township for preparing to issue citations to the owner of the shopping center, which was known until several years ago as the Heights Plaza. Wild Blue Management bought the shopping center in December 2003 for $20.5 million.

For decades, the Alle-Kiski Valley's first strip shopping center was vibrant. Now, it's less than half occupied and its condition is troubling.

The township has noted a slew of problems, most of which are obvious to those who shop at any of the remaining stores, buy groceries at the Community Market, work out at Planet Fitness or have an appointment at one of the UPMC medical offices that give the property a pulse.

Most obvious is the side of the UPMC medical offices that occupy the former Horne's/Lazarus/Macy's department store. The façade was never refinished on one side following a 2012 fire that crept through the original section of the sprawling strip mall.

Completing the rest of the façade reconstruction took years, and most of businesses that tried to stick it out either moved or folded.

The township complained in a letter to Wild Blue Management and the plaza's principal owner Steve Kogut that the property was never properly repaired after the fire. The township says the exterior is deteriorating “in a way that contributes to the blighting of the property.”

As the Trib's Brian Rittmeyer reported Friday, certain sections of the store roof are structurally unsound and leaking, allowing mold to grow.

There are potholes, broken sidewalks and curbs, crumbling pillar bases for the walkway roof and sunken storm sewer grates.

Other problems exist in the rear of the property, unseen to most, including exposed wiring and couches, mattresses and even car seats being dumped there.

In its letter to the company dated May 30, the township is giving the owners 60 days to bring the property into compliance by making numerous repairs.

“It's been an ongoing headache for the township,” township Commissioner Bill Heasley told the Trib. “We've done a number of things to get the owner to own up to his responsibilities, and it's fallen on deaf ears.”

The township is threatening ordinance violations that can carry a penalty of up to $1,000 per day.

Who knows what Wild Blue Management's response will be, but Harrison Township is right to try.

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