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Grants Available to Upgrade McDonald Historic Buildings

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bev Schons, co-owner of the Pitt Hotel & Restaurant in McDonald, says it’s about time to install new windows in the century-old building, and she hopes the borough’s new facade improvement program will help.

Mrs. Schons plans to seek grant money for the South McDonald Street landmark, which is in the downtown historic district.

“We want to help improve McDonald,” she said.

Five owners of historic commercial properties attended an informational meeting last Thursday to learn about applying for storefront enhancement grants.

A second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. today in the municipal building, 151 School St.

Commercial buildings that front Lincoln Avenue or McDonald Street in the central historic district and are at least 75 years old may be considered for up to $7,500 in matching grants to help refurbish their storefronts and preserve original architectural features, said Tim Thomassy, head of McDonald council’s community development committee.

“Our big, historical buildings downtown are generally in good shape. They just need a little work to perk them up,” Mr. Thomassy said.

“You guys have to make the major contribution,” he told property owners. “But we want to try to help you as much as we can.”

Applications are due in the borough office by 4 p.m. July 15. A review committee will evaluate the entries, and awards will be announced during the Aug. 2 council meeting.

Dale Csonka plans to seek assistance for his circa-1920s West Lincoln Avenue building, the former G.C. Murphy store currently occupied by an arts cooperative.

He was concerned about having only three weeks to prepare and submit his application, but he was positive about the program.

“I’m very encouraged,” Mr. Csonka said. “I’ve been waiting a very long time for this. The town needed it.”

Matt Cochran, an owner of the century-old Cook and Shane buildings on South McDonald Street, said he is planning significant facade improvements and will apply for grant money to help.

“It will enable us to do more than we could financially feasibly do otherwise,” he said.

His buildings occupy the city block between the Pitt Hotel and O’Hara Street. Ground-level tenants include a pizza parlor, a tanning salon and an attorney’s office. Upper levels are designed for apartments.

McDonald’s $45,000 facade program is financed with $30,000 from Washington County’s share of gambling revenues, $13,000 from the borough and $2,000 from the McDonald Area Redevelopment Association, a nonprofit citizens group.

Attending last week’s meeting were representatives of borough council, McDonald Area Redevelopment Association, Redevelopment Authority of Washington County and the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Mr. Thomassy said the facade work was part of an overall plan to stimulate business activity.

“We want [the work] to be in good taste, we want it to be well done, and we want it to fit into the original design of the building,” he said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633