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White targets grants for development of properties

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, November 19, 2014 4:51 a.m

State Sen. Don White puts pushing for development of Kittanning and Ford City school properties after they close next year high on his list of priorities.

“We can’t allow these buildings just turn into dilapidated, ugly focal points,” White, R-Indiana, said at an Alle Kiski Strong Chamber luncheon Tuesday at the Belmont Complex in East Franklin. “We have some very positive options. They’re an important part of my agenda.”

The two high schools and Kittanning Middle School will close and students will be merged into Armstrong Junior-Senior High School next fall.

White said he is working with Armstrong School District officials on getting grants for razing and redeveloping the properties. Specifically, he is looking into state programs similar to the one used to turn the former IUP campus branch on North McKean Street into the Kittanning Cottages, a 24-unit senior housing development. In 2008, White’s office helped Armstrong County get a $1.5 million grant for that project.

“The Cottages are a good asset for the borough and we hopefully could do the same thing for Ford City or the two buildings in Kittanning,” White said. “If we could find some interested parties, they could use these sites to serve some kind of a higher purpose.”

School Board President Joe Close said district officials began meeting with White and his staff to discuss options for the buildings in October.

“Everything is in the preliminary stages, but we know these are going to be tough to sell,” Close said. “I’d like to see those properties reused, but the usefulness of those buildings is pretty limited for the vast majority of developers.

“The only way we may get these properties sold is to raze the buildings and sell them as vacant lots. The best case scenario would be to get some funding to help pay for that process.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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