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City OKs demolition of former stable

Joe Napsha
| Friday, May 11, 2012, 12:29 a.m.

Citing safety reasons, Greensburg officials Tuesday ordered the emergency demolition of a 98-year-old former livery stable and furniture warehouse that has been partially razed and is in danger of falling down.

The city's Board of Health yesterday voted during an emergency meeting to condemn the vacant two-story brick building at 157 N. Pennsylvania Ave. and demolish it as soon as possible. The building sits at the corner of North Pennsylvania Avenue and Tunnel Street and abuts the city's North Main Street parking lot.

In conjunction with the decision to condemn the building, Thomas Sphon, city administrator, said the city reached a tentative agreement with the property owners, Anthony Pacienza and the estate of the late Nick Pacienza, to pay $1 for the 90-foot-by-125-foot lot. In return, the city would take responsibility for paying for the demolition.

Both Anthony Pacienza, who attended the health board meeting, and his attorney, Patsy Iezzi, refused to comment on the demolition or the tentative sale of the property. The Pacienza Brothers have owned the building since 1973, according to records in the Westmoreland County Recorder of Deeds office.

The demolition of the building was recommended in a report for the city prepared by Dan Schmitt, an engineer with Gibson-Thomas Engineering, of Latrobe. Portions of the roof collapsed onto the second floor last month, and the wooden roof supports that are intact show signs of sagging and "immediate collapse," the report stated.

Schmitt inspected the building on Sept. 25 and found that a wall along Tunnel Street had bulged because the roof had failed. A contractor was hired to remove part of the wall because of the concern about an "immediate failure," Schmitt said.

The engineer estimated it might cost $150,000 to repair the structure so that it meets current building codes.

Les Harvey, the city's code enforcement officer, said he concurred with Schmitt's assessment and called for the property's immediate demolition.

For safety reasons, the city had closed a parking lot between Hose Co. No. 2 and the former livery stable, plus a section of the North Main Street parking lot.

The demolition project is expected to cost between $75,000 and $100,000, based on quotes offered by two demolition contractors, Sphon said. City council gave him authorization last week to award an emergency demolition contract, and Sphon said he hopes to finalize the contract today.

The demolition would not start until the city learns the result of a title search on the property. Once the demolition starts, contractors said it would take about three weeks, Sphon said.

To make the site safe once the building is demolished, Sphon said the contractors would use bricks and other material as fill against the high retaining wall that upholds the alley adjacent to the North Main Street parking lot and Tunnel Street. The lot would be graded so there is no drop-off.

In order to pay for the demolition, Sphon said the city will use money it saved by recently refinancing a bond issue.

Mayor Karl Eisaman said the city may leave the lot vacant for future development. Eisaman said he did not know if it would be economically feasible to create a temporary parking lot on the site.

The mayor said that property could be the site of joint venture with Seton Hill University, which wanted to construct a building in downtown Greensburg to house a theater, its theater department and the university's women's business center. Seton Hill also discussed the possibility of operating an inn that would serve as an internship site for its hospitality and tourism program.

While the future use of the site is unknown, Sphon said the city may "landbank" the property and make it available for development, including by private interests.

A 'No Trespassing' sign is posted outside the old Coshey Livery Stable building at 157 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Greensburg. The building has been used as a furniture warehouse in recent years.

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