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New Kensington to award contract for demolition of former bar, hotel buildings

BRIAN C. RITTMEYER|Friday, August 28, 2020 12:50 p.m.

A woman living across from a rundown New Kensington building that was once a bar is happy it will soon be gone, while a business owner whose garage is across from an empty former hotel in the city wonders how it got so bad that tearing it down is all that can be done.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of New Kensington is expected to award a contract Tuesday for demolition of the two buildings, the former Funzi’s at 1301 Taylor Ave. and the former Terrace Hotel at 800 East Hill Drive.

Eight bids for the work were opened Thursday at city hall.

Dana Rhea has lived across Taylor Avenue from Funzi’s for 15 years. The building has been empty the entire time, and Rhea said she’ll be happy when she can look out her window and not see it.

“It’s pretty much an eyesore,” she said. “Cats live in there, and they run the streets.”

The building draws curious kids and, Rhea said, “People just dump their garbage there sometimes, too.”

Both buildings are marked with a red “X” to signify to firefighters and others they are dangerous and should not be entered.

Dan Cecchetti has run A&D Foreign Car Service at 7th Street and East Hill Drive for nearly 40 years. He remembers when the Terrace Hotel across the road was a happening place — for good and not-so-good reasons — under a couple different owners.

“It got really bad,” he said.

Cecchetti figures it’s been closed for about eight years. The empty building hasn’t affected his business, but Cecchetti said he doesn’t understand how it was allowed to deteriorate.

“I’d rather saw it fixed up than torn down. As a business owner, it never should have got that far,” he said. “I don’t know how it got that bad. It doesn’t make sense.”

Bids for the demolition of the buildings ranged from a low of $39,200 submitted by AP Wise Excavating of Jefferson, Butler County, to a high bid of $240,000 from Ligonier Construction in Ligonier Township.

The city has worked before with AP Wise. The company tore down three houses earlier this year.

Rhea said AP Wise tore down a house adjacent to her family’s home on Taylor, and they were happy with the company’s work.

City engineer Tony Males will review the bids before the redevelopment authority considers awarding the contract at its meeting Tuesday. The meeting will be held on Zoom. Information to join the meeting will be available on the authority’s website, Executive Director Sarah Snider said.

The redevelopment authority has torn down 22 unsafe structures since January 2018, Snider said.

The demolition of these two commercial buildings had been delayed while additional required environmental reviews were done, Snider said. Federal grant money intended to combat blight that comes to the city through the state will pay for it.

“It looks like we’ll be in good shape with the way the bids came in,” Snider said.

If a contract is awarded Tuesday, the two buildings should be down before the end of the year, Males said.

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