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Vandergrift Main Street moves ahead

By Rossilynne Skena
Monday, May 19, 2008 

Part of the now-vacant building at 143 Grant Ave. is “a time capsule,” said Shaun Yurcaba, Vandergrift Improvement Program Main Street manager.

Inside are two single-bedroom apartments, complete with details and woodwork left unchanged since the turn of the 20th century.

By fall, renters will be able to live there and look out over Vandergrift, the area the VIP has spent the last four years trying to improve.

The VIP is a nonprofit organization that’s facilitating the Main Street program, a community revitalization initiative, Yurcaba said.


This summer, contractors will restore the apartments — one two-bedroom and two one-bedroom. The VIP is getting bids for painting along with electrical and plumbing work.

Yurcaba said the building facade has been partially restored with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Allegheny Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based Scaife Foundation that gives grants to historic preservation projects, made possible through the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

A new roof has been installed and asbestos abatement has occurred, Yurcaba said. The storefront needs to be restored, she said.

“We’re hoping that this building will be an example to others on what they can do to restore and rehabilitate others,” Yurcaba said.

A business will move into the first floor by late summer or fall, Yurcaba said. Plans for the business are being finalized, she said.

Yurcaba said the VIP has seen a couple of businesses relocate to the area and another reopen, although she said the VIP can’t take complete credit.

Carino’s Ristorante, 133 Grant Ave., will reopen next month, and owner Mark Carino said he’s anxious to get back into the business.

The restaurant, which had been in Vandergrift for 20 years, has been closed for about two-and-a-half years. Carino of Vandergrift said the restaurant will be “kind of different this time.”

“It’s going to be more neighborhood-friendly, more price-friendly,” Carino said, describing the previous restaurant as the “white tablecloth” kind.

Carino’s will offer pasta dishes, sauces, sandwiches, salads and appetizers and will be “kind of sports-oriented” with TVs.

Carino said VIP’s revitalization efforts were one of the deciding factors to open again.

“I like what they’re doing. They’re very pro-active. Before they came along, I thought it was stagnant. Now, they’re trying to do things. I can see other people trying to do things also,” he said.

Allan Walzak is president of StrongLand Chamber of Commerce, which represents Vandergrift among other municipalities, backs the VIP.

“It’s very important to us that every community within the chamber has an opportunity to move forward, to grow and develop,” he said. “We are here to help them.”

Walzak also serves as president of the Casino Theater, a partially-restored building in Vandergrift. He said there has been community interest and support of the theater.

Last week, the VIP received an $850 grant from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau for the program’s farmers market, which will be held Thursdays this summer, beginning July 10, Yurcaba said.

The VIP this month received a $75,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development to pay for the program’s operations, including running programs, keeping the office running and keeping the staff working on projects, Yurcaba said.

The VIP will also receive a DCED grant for $35,000 by fall or winter to help pay for building renovations, she said.

Another DCED grant, the Facade Grant Program, offers money to downtown businesses owners and property owners to rehabilitate their storefronts. The VIP receives this $30,000 grant each year for four years, Yurcaba said. The VIP has this $30,000 to grant to property owners to do renovations, and applications for funds are available at the program’s 132 Grant Ave. office or at its Web site, As much as $5,000 is available for each facade, depending on the project.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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