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New Kensington council considers selling garage to build garage

| Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011

New Kensington officials are researching whether selling the city's garage could pay for a new garage.

Mayor Tom Guzzo said developers have shown an interest in the nearly 6-acre property at the corner of Stevenson Boulevard and Powers Drive, across Route 366 from Valley High School.

Since the 70-year-old building no longer meets the needs of modern equipment used by the city's public works department, Guzzo said officials want to determine if selling all or a portion of the property would raise enough money to pay for a new facility.

"I think it's very clear we need a new garage," Guzzo said. "The idea of selling that property has floated around for 10 years."

Council is considering entering an agreement with the Redevelopment Authority of New Kensington to permit the authority to market and possibly sell the property.

City Solicitor James Kopelman said the authority, as the city's development agency, would be best positioned to market the land, review proposals and assess the land's value. No proposed use for the land has been disclosed.

Kim McAfoose, the authority's executive director, said marketing the land would be a joint effort with the city.

On the suggestion of Councilman John Regoli, council on Tuesday postponed acting on the agreement with the authority until a better estimate is developed on the cost of a new garage. Guzzo said the existing property needs a full appraisal.

Guzzo said he hopes council will be able to approve the agreement at its Nov. 1 meeting, allowing the authority to move forward as soon as possible.

Depending on how much land a developer would buy, a new garage could be built on the rear, undeveloped portion of the property behind the city's salt shed, Guzzo said. Or it could be built on a parking lot or other empty lot elsewhere in New Kensington.

Officials said a more efficient garage is needed, regardless of where it's built. They noted employees always are moving around equipment because it doesn't fit properly in the structure.

Kopelman said the existing garage was built about 1940 by the federal government's Works Progress Administration, which provided jobs as the economy recovered from the Great Depression.

At that time, Stevenson Boulevard was a two-lane road to Memorial Park; Powers Drive didn't exist, Kopelman said.

Now the building sits along a four-lane highway in a prime commercial zone.

If the land is sold and developed, it would add to the city's tax base, officials noted.

"It's a valuable piece of property," Kopelman said.

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