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Charleroi project deserves kudos

| Monday, May 9, 2005

Some folks obviously are thinking in Charleroi.

As a result, plans are under way for a $285,000 project to transform several empty buildings along McKean Avenue into a community activity zone called the Market House.

The brainchild of borough manager Bob Hodgson, the proposed new community activity center addresses several problems simultaneously.

First, it breathes some much-needed new life into some of the empty buildings in the Magic City's main business district.

Second, it helps provide a solution to the age-old complaint from the younger generation that there's "nothing to do."

And it gives the community - indeed, the entire Mid-Mon Valley - a rallying point to demonstrate that good things can happen when civic-minded officials of the public and private sectors agree to work cooperatively.

The plan, as devised by ATS Chester Engineers, of Rostraver Township, calls for clearing the lots at 423-427 McKean Ave. and building a 6,000-square foot pavilion behind a false facade that will connect to and blend with the surrounding storefronts in the downtown area.

Such community functions as Kids Night, free concerts and a farmers market hosted by the main street program have recently been staged outdoors in a former parking lot in the 500 block of McKean Ave. known as Magic City Square.

Those events will find a new home under the Market House roof, according to Donn Henderson, manager of Charleroi's Main Street Program.

Henderson, who took Hodgson's idea and ran with it, said such new attractions as a portable skate park, arts and crafts events and maybe even a temporary ice rink in the winter will become possible at the Market House.

It just opens it up for more times of the year where you're not impacted by weather, he said of having a covered venue.

But the idea proposed by Hodgson and refined by Henderson could not be transformed into reality without the money needed to do so.

Borough council already has devoted $175,000 in state Community Development Block Grant money to the project.

A $40,250 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development and a $20,000 award from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources helped pad the project coffers.

And 84 Lumber donated roughly $35,000 in materials for the construction of the Market House pavilion.

According to Henderson, about $20,000 more is needed to fully fund the project, but enough money has been collected to begin demolition work and site preparation.

Henderson is predicting the Market House will become a premiere hot spot for community entertainment.

It was just a nice thing to do for the town, he said.

And we salute Hodgson, Henderson and everybody else who has played a role in the development of Market House.

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