Fate of Wentz Hotel property uncertain
Joseph Konzier, real estate developer and contractor, has asked Millvale Council to permit him to restore his late 1800s-era Wentz Hotel property, rather than to force its demolition.
Konzier, of Upper St. Clair, purchased the vacant 701 Evergreen Road building four years ago, intending to renovate or demolish it. He focused his attention elsewhere when he “got sidetracked with other projects.”
Code enforcement officer Jim Tunstall Sr. said during a
Feb. 5 council workshop the borough started working with Konzier in October 2017 on trying to bring the building up to code.
Tunstall said Konzier picked up a demolition permit for the project in November 2018; the project was to have a start date of no later than Jan. 21, 2019. Konzier placed a fence around the building’s perimeter to secure it Jan. 23.
Konzier said he had intentions to demolish the building and made “a last-ditch effort” to sell the property. Beforehand, he sought Preservation Pittsburgh’s input regarding the building’s legacy. Matthew W.C. Falcone, president of the nonprofit dedicated to preserving the region’s heritage, wrote a Feb. 4 letter to council stating the Wentz Hotel is a likely candidate for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The architectural design of 701 Evergreen Road contains elements that stand out in Victorian-era Pittsburgh architecture and appear reminiscent of styles employed by noted architect Joseph Stiller von Stillburg,” Falcone wrote. Stiller von Stillburg designed the facility now known as Penn Brewery, as well as Troy Hill Fire Station.
“It’s not a danger to
anybody at this point,” Konzier said of the Wentz Hotel. “The windows are boarded up. I don’t see what the harm is in researching it a little bit.”
“It’s an abandoned building that I would probably give you five or six fire violations right off the bat,” said Millvale Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief and council President James Machajewski.
“Part of the building is partially collapsed or in the process of collapsing inside so there is a hazard and a nuisance there.”
“I would like to save it. I don’t want to see it knocked down. How is knocking that building down beneficial to anybody?” asked Konzier.
Machajewski said it proves beneficial by not posing a public safety hazard.
John Suhrie, of Suhrie Engineering LLC, noted in an inspection made Feb. 1 for Konzier that the building is “structurally sound and suitable for renovation and reuse.”
The document states the roof should be repaired and the building secured “as soon as possible to prevent further deterioration and safety issues.”
The roof and floors are in “very poor condition” and need to be rebuilt.
“The only safety risk observed was the possibility of loose bricks that could fall. This area was closely inspected and no bricks appeared to present a present danger.”
Following the meeting, Councilman Brian Wolovich said in the past he has witnessed bricks fall from the building.
Tunstall said Konzier would need to demolish the building’s rear soon.
“I think that the back portion has to come down, but I’m really hesitant to make any changes yet until I research the history of the place a little bit more,” Konzier said.
“You’re asking for time to come up with a plan — you should have come up with a plan,” Council Vice President Al Atkinson said.
Tunstall said Magisterial District Judge Dan Konieczka will probably order a hearing on the issue within two weeks, in which borough officials and Konzier may present information. The judge will make a ruling determining the building’s future.
Erica Cebzanov is a