Vacant Homestead store catches fire on Eighth Avenue, 2 others damaged
Homestead officials were working to tear down a building that was vacant for about 20 years and considered a nuisance to the business district when it caught fire early Thursday, damaging two neighboring properties.
The dilapidated building that once was home to Harry’s Clothing Shop at 210 E. Eighth Avenue caught fire at about 2 a.m. Fire crews responded and had the blaze under control in about two hours but in the process caused serious water damage to properties on both sides of the building, according to fire officials at the scene.
No injuries were reported. Six adults were displaced, according to the American Red Cross, which is assisting them.
“I told them one of these days somebody is going to light that place on fire,” said Richard Pickering, owner of a building next door that houses five businesses and three residential units. Pickering was referring to complaints he said he’d made to borough authorities through the years about the deplorable condition of the burned building.
The Allegheny County property assessment website indicates the destroyed building is owned by Roy Gross. Gross declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday night.
Pickering said the building’s roof collapsed several years ago and caused damage to his building. It was home to raccoons and occasionally to people who would break in, he said.
All power was cut to Pickering’s building because of the fire.
Pickering’s building houses a nail salon, convenience store, body piercing salon, electronics shop and Cricket phone store. All were closed Thursday as were a laundromat and daycare center in the building on the other side of the burned structure.
“This is something that should have never happened,” Pickering said. “We’ve been fighting for seven years to get that place knocked down.”
Homestead business manager Ian McMeans said the borough was in the process of trying to get the building demolished. He said the borough had issued a bid request Wednesday advertising for demolition of the structure and the property likely would have been leveled within three months.
“There was a $30,000 (Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund) grant to build a small park on the site and it was on our (Community Development Block Grant) demo list,” McMeans said.
“Now we’re probably going to have to do an emergency demolition,” said McMeans, who did not know Thursday if special emergency funding would be available for that project or if the borough would have to use the CDGB money already slated for the work.
Homestead council president Lloyd Cunningham believes the fire will be only a temporary setback to development in the business district.
“I think things will snap back for businesses on both sides,” Cunningham said.
Insurance assessors were on the scene Thursday and borough officials said property owners on both sides of the fire site were insured.
Cunningham said he believes the vacant area down the street that resulted when four buildings were destroyed by fire in January will be redeveloped.
“I’m optimistic that something will happen soon,” Cunningham said.
The four properties that constitute the scene of the January blaze remain in the hands of their owners.
McMeans said that lot will be relatively easy to develop because it is large and on a corner.
The scene of Thursday’s fire is slated to become a small park for bicycle trail users once the building is down. Cunningham said the fire shouldn’t affect those plans.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or [email protected].