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Fate of Homestead historic buildings, CVS still clouded by confusion

By Jim Hosek,
Tri-State Sports & News Service
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Some controversies never end.

It remains uncertain four years after the battle lines were drawn whether Gustine Properties will be allowed to raze 10 dilapidated historic buildings to develop a CVS super pharmacy on East Eighth Avenue in Homestead.

The Steel Valley Historic Architectural Review Board, which two weeks ago recommended allowing two to be razed, now wants Gustine to provide more information before making a recommendation on the other eight.

But that panel is only advisory. Homestead council has the final say, and last Thursday, it agreed to table a motion to allow demolition of the former Rainbow Kitchen and the former Amos Supermarket.

That was after David Lewis and Elisa Cavalier told council that Gustine and CVS never should have been in a position to ask to raze the buildings.

Lewis, who wears many hats, represented the Homestead area Economic Revitalization Corp., while Cavalier is general counsel for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

They complained earlier this year that Gustine should be cited for allowing the buildings to deteriorate and maintained building inspectors erred by giving Gustine a notice that the buildings had to be repaired or razed.

Gustine then applied for a demolition permit, which was denied, and later appealed that decision to the review board.

Cavalier argued that building inspectors had no authority under the borough’s laws to say razing the buildings was an alternative.

“Under your ordinance, they should have been told to repair or be fined,” she said.

Council President Evan Baker acknowledged a problem with building inspections in general, adding that council needs to know if the law was not followed before proceeding.

Gustine sued the borough, municipal officials and various organizations two years ago to allow it to raze the buildings and erect the CVS.

Between 1998 and 2000, council took at least 10 votes related to the project, sometimes reversing itself.

It’s been a major battle between those who believe the 10 old buildings can be refurbished to keep the historic, small-town atmosphere of the Eighth Avenue business district and those who believe the buildings are an eyesore and that an infusion of tax dollars from CVS will help the community.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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