New Castle News

January 1, 2013

Board objects to demolition plans

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle’s Historical Architectural Review Board is objecting to a proposal to demolish a downtown building.

The building at 114 E. Washington St. sustained damage in a July 22 fire that destroyed the former Black Whale on Apple Way and damaged an adjacent structure once occupied by Pat’s Cameras. Both of those buildings have been demolished.

The city has received state approval to reallocate funds remaining from a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Grant to demolish the 114 E. Washington building and construct a parking lot. The estimated cost is $138,000.

Lovelight Boutique, which had been in the building, lost merchandise in the fire, but relocated to Kennedy Square.

Dale Perelman and Gary Bruce own the building and have offered to give the property to the city, according to Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo.

The board outlined its objections in a letter to city officials.

The letter states the board opposes demolition because the building is in the downtown overlay and that removing nearly a quarter of the frontage in the block between Mercer and Mill streets “will seriously undermine New Castle’s ‘Main Street’ charm and the cultural and visual integrity of the downtown area.”

Under the city’s zoning ordinance, guidelines have been established for property owners to follow for any changes to buildings or for new construction in both the downtown overlay and the North Hill historic district.

The board said the structure, known as the Cooper Butler building, has been part of the city since 1855 and is one of the few remaining buildings of its age left in the city.

The letter added it is preferable to maintain a structure that can house a business and generate tax revenue and noted the city has an abundance of parking spaces.

In November, Mastrangelo had said the owner of the Black Whale property planned to give the land to the city in lieu of the cost for demolition. The city offered the same terms to the owner of the Pat’s Cameras property, but “we haven’t heard from them,” he said Monday.

The mayor said he talked with Perelman a couple of weeks ago, and “the offer is still there” to turn the building over to the city.

Audrey Przybylski, Historical Architectural Review Board president, said she has heard some people are interested in acquiring the Cooper Butler building. One of them, she said, owns the Pat’s Cameras site.

Asked whether the city intends to demolish the Cooper Butler building if it receives the property, Mastrangelo said, “That’s the plan.”

He said the city doesn’t have the money to renovate the structure, which sustained damage to the roof and basement and needs a new wall.

He added the city could use the property plus the other two lots for parking to accommodate people already in the downtown.