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Joe Napsha
A commercial building in downtown Irwin was sold for $50,000 by the Westmoreland County Land Bank.

A long-vacant former restaurant and hotel building in downtown Irwin has been sold to a North Huntingdon man who plans to renovate the three-story structure the borough had condemned into six apartments on the top two floors and possibly a commercial use on the first floor.

“It has potential. I like the locale, “ said James Edgerton, who purchased the building at 207 Main St., from the Westmoreland County Land Bank for $50,000 on July 18.

The land bank, which has bought dilapidated buildings and tax delinquent properties as a way of removing blight in a community, had acquired the building through the Westmoreland County Tax Claim Bureau for $417 in September 2015.

Before he can begin work renovating the structure, however, Edgerton, said he has to have an engineer prepare a plan to stabilize the structure and get those plans approved by the borough’s code enforcement officer. A portion of the wall on the south side of structure had collapsed several years ago.

“We have to get the building safe,” said Edgerton, a science teacher at Valley High School in New Kensing‑ton.

The building, which once housed Major Toms restaurant on the first floor, had sustained water damage as a result of a leaking roof. They have to go through the building to determine the cause of the water leak and the extent of the damage, he said.

Edgerton, who has purchased houses and renovated them for 15 years, said he hopes to have the upstairs apartments renovated within six to seven months, and then tackle the first-floor remodeling.

“In my mind, I think I can do it,” Edgerton said. “I definitely want to save the aesthetics of the building. It needs to be brought back again.”

Irwin officials are pleased that the vacant building has been sold and there are plans to renovate it.

“I’m glad someone took it over. I’m hoping they can save it,” said John Cassandro, president of the Irwin Borough Council.

Cassandro, general manager of The Lamp Theatre, said it will be good to have the building across the street from the theater renovated and put to good use.

The county land bank has worked with Edgerton on a plan for reuse, said April Kopas, land bank executive director. The six apartments are to be renovated this summer and fall.

While the $50,000 sale price of the property is more than the county land bank gets for the sale of its properties, this is the first commercial building the land bank has sold, Kopas said. In total, the county land bank has acquired 74 properties, sold 44 and is leasing 3 to community groups since it was created in 2014.

“The private investment into the property is much more important than the sale price,” Kopas said. “It’s more about stabilizing that part of the commercial district” in Irwin, she added.

Edgerton had worked with the St. Vincent College Small Business Development Center on a plan for the building, Kopas said.

The county has included requirements in the sale that Edgerton must meet for rehabilitating the property. He has 60 days from the sale date to present a plan from an engineer or architect for repairing the building. The plan must address a remedy to the defective exterior brick on the southern side of the building “that shows imminent sign or danger or failure.”

No workers can enter the building until the drawings are approved by the borough, according to the document attached to the deed.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or [email protected].

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