NEW CASTLE Niles man proposes moving 6 historical homes

A foundation would be formed to raise money and take in-kind services.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A Niles man wants to take six homes slated for the wrecking ball and protect them under a commercial historical designation.
Randall Hake, a commercial engineer who helped develop Super Kmart and Lowe's on Route 46 in Niles, is working with a New Castle group to buy six historical homes slated for demolition by the New Castle Area School District to make way for a campus-style school in the city's North Hill section.
The district put the homes up for bid last month to anyone who could move them by mid-July.
Hake submitted bids ranging from $50 to $500.
James Meehan bid $12 on a seventh home he wants to move to a vacant lot next to his funeral home off Highland Avenue.
School officials are expected to act on the bids June 20.
What's planned: Hake's plan is to move the homes from Lincoln Avenue, Berger Place, East and Reis streets to a cul-de-sac that would be created on Grant Street, about a two-block, downhill journey.
Atty. Angelo Papa says the Historical Development Foundation will accept donations and in-kind services for the development and give out shares to anyone participating.
"A person who gives anything of value will have a numerical value arrived at and they will be given a share that can be redeemed later for cash when the corporation or foundation makes money," he said.
Papa said his contribution would be vacant land he owns on Grant Street, Hake would provide the houses and his engineering expertise, and others would donate services or money.
Hake said the four larger homes will cost about $40,000 each to move. Costs for the two other homes were not available, but would be less, he said.
That cost does not include any demolition or site preparation on Grant Street or the cost of new foundations.
Details of the project are still being worked out, Papa said.
Consultant: Gil Peterson, a retired Youngstown State University professor who specialized in urban planning, said the idea is feasible. Peterson will be a consultant for the project and on the board of directors for the foundation.
"It will be tied with the downtown improvements that have already started. Downtown New Castle will become a destination point for people for things other than just retail. It will be very good for the local economy," Peterson said.
City officials are working on a downtown redevelopment project with a private developer who is putting in a Warner Brothers-theme mall in a building that housed the first theater opened by the Youngstown natives who went on to fame as Hollywood movie producers.
Similar to Volant: Papa said the cul-de-sac plan would be similar to Volant's Main Street where arts, crafts and other retail stores were developed around an old mill.
This development would be centered on the historical homes, some dating to the late 1800s. There is an interest and viability in developing old mansions for new commercial use, he said.
Papa owns the Signature Hill Complex, which consists of two 19th-century mansions on Highland Avenue that have been converted to retail and office space.
A newly opened restaurant in the basement of 328 Highland Ave., The Dumplin' Haus II, generates enough money to pay the monthly expenses for the entire four-story building, he said.

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