BY APRIL SMYTH
For the past 15 to 20 years, a team of dedicated individuals has endeavored to enhance the quality of life within the Blairsville Borough. During that time, the group, now known as the Blairsville Community Development Authority, and the Blairsville Borough Office have garnered in excess of seven million dollars in governmental grants that have benefited borough residents including: Veteran’s Memorial, Market Street Streetscape, Elm Street Program, Waterfront Greenway Master Plan, Armory Acquisition, Police Portable Radios, Riverfront Hiking/Biking Trail, North Spring Street Sinkhole Remediation, Armory Roof, Community Center Renovation, and the Blairsville Riverfront Village (BRV).
Governmental grants are typically oriented for a specific purpose, with the underlying theme being local communities attaining a semblance of self-reliability and sustain-ability. To continue the process, communities like Blairsville must rely on private investment.
The BCDA has joined forces with Castlebrook Development Group, based in Pittsburgh, PA. This real estate development firm specializes in “the planning and construction management of retail, hospitality, municipal, residential and mixed-use projects throughout western Pennsylvania.” This combined effort is moving the BRV from “dreaming and scheming” to planning and scheduling construction, which is to begin in April 2019, after nearly two decades of careful deliberation. The aesthetically pleasing plan of residential and commercial property located in the heart of downtown Blairsville will take full advantage of the Conemaugh River and the Riverfront Trail.
Blairsville Riverfront Village is a multi-phase project scheduled to break ground in April 2019 once building permits have been issued, according to David Laffey, Vice President and Project Director of Castlebrook. Phase I-A, Sycamore Condominiums, will consist of two buildings on the corner of South Liberty Street and West Brown Street (in the former location of the old skating rink). Building one houses a two-unit condo while building two boasts 3 units.
Phase I-B involves the construction of a 15-unit apartment complex and eight single-family row homes/townhouses that will be situated on the property on West Market Street and North Liberty Street, across the street from the Veteran’s Memorial Wall. Phase I-B provides 23 market-rate housing residences in all.
Phase II of the development project includes mixed-use commercial property on West Market Street, between Spring Street and Liberty Street that will offer retail and office space. The developer is currently working with local realtors to seek out prospective commercial tenants for the main business district.
The project will continue to be built in phases as the housing market dictates. Future phases feature an additional apartment complex, townhouses/row homes, and commercial property.
Sycamore Condominiums are expected to sell for around $200,000, depending on the options the buyer chooses. The first unit in building one already has a tentative buyer.
Jon Herby, BCDA President, has done his due diligence to see the plan through to fruition. Herby reports being “beside myself with joy that the project is finally moving forward.” The process has been an uphill climb. The original plan of mixed housing was abandoned “when a previous developer’s agreement included caveats and conditions that the BCDA nor the borough could accommodate. That agreement had to expire before the BCDA could entertain a partnership with another developer.
”The BCDA and Castlebrook also intend to reach out to county commissioners for tax abatements similar to those extended to Urban Outfitters in Indiana, PA.
This new property development will not only enhance the entrance into Blairsville but also offer move-in ready properties to potential buyers. The hope is to motivate existing property owners to follow suit in the revitalization effort, making the entire community appealing to buyers. Herby says, “with a little luck and an enterprising marketing strategy, all things are possible.
”The riverfront property development will assist in marking Blairsville a commuter community, targeting the up-and-coming millennial generation. The town sits within 50 miles of 48 universities and colleges (including three Penn State campuses) and is only 90 minutes from PSU main campus in State College.
With all the amenities that Blairsville has to offer, including the river, trails, two championship golf courses, and its proximity to Altoona and Pittsburgh (halfway between the two), the new development is expected to boom.
Another attribute to this small town is parks and recreation. In addition to the Conemaugh River and Riverfront Trail for those who love kayaking, fishing, hiking, and biking is the picturesque Pine Ridge Park, featuring a stream, playground, and several pavilions that are available to rent. Seven Springs Mountain Resort is also a mere 43 miles away!
Along with other facets, Blairsville is a walkable community. Blairsville’s Riverfront Village will be in walking distance to restaurants, shopping, a community playground, skate and bike park, the little league field, and public library seated only a few blocks away. The Farmer’s Market is available every Friday in the summer months and is only a short walk from the village.
Blairsville’s Diamond, or Bandstand, underwent a renovation in 2018, with the help of volunteers. The Bandstand Preservation Group worked tirelessly to protect the investment of the Diamond, which uses the re-configured square as a traffic circle to redirect drivers into the business district. This group planted 42 shrubs, mulched the surrounding area, installed lighting, and painted.
Masonry work was also completed to encapsulate the Bandstand’s foundation in a brick façade. A copper finial was designed and constructed by a local resident and placed high atop the roof. New metal was fabricated and painted to be used as the decorative trim of the structure, and the wrought iron railing was refinished. The result is stunning and will be within view of the BRV.
The bandstand always looks festive and polished, thanks to caring residents who take pride in their quaint little community and support the revival of Blairsville.
For more information, like and follow the Blairsville Community Development Authority on Facebook or visit www.castlebrookdevelopment.com and check out their current projects.
*Photos and plans courtesy of CastleBrook Development and Dimit Architects