DON Services purchases Central Building; plans include offices and housing

The Central Building on South Mercer Street, has been purchased by DON Services.

The Central Building in downtown New Castle has been sold.

Essentially vacant since the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Vital Records Office relocated to Neshannock Township in March, the five-story structure along South Mercer Street was purchased for $150,000 by DON Services.

Anita McKeever, administrator of Community Resources for DON Management LLC, told New Castle City Council on Thursday that DON closed the purchase on the building that afternoon.

Council members couldn’t have been more pleased.

“I congratulate DON Services for this and for all that you’ve done for the city,” Councilman Richard Beshero said.

“It is fantastic what DON Services has done for the Lower East Side,” agreed council president Bill Panella. “I hope you get the building full.”

“DON Services offers wonderful programs,” said Councilman Tom Smith.

“We need foot traffic in the downtown. Good Luck,” said Councilman Paul Stefano.

McKeever said DON Services plans to put offices and possibly retail stores in the first two floors and convert the top five floors to affordable housing.

“It will not be Section 8 housing,” she said, “but rents will be based on the income of the tenants.”

She noted that the building has 77,000 square feet of space.

“That’s a lot of building,” she said

McKeever said she and other DON officials are in the process of “showing” the space to potential developers.

“We (DON Services) have an insurance company. That will locate there. And, we are in the process of creating a credit union. That also will go there. But we’re open to anyone else who would like to come in.”

Interested parties may contact McKeever at DON Management (724) 652-5144.

She said DON Services will maintain its offices at the former Thaddeus Stevens School, located along Harrison Street and at 1928 E. Washington St.

McKeever said the building’s owner told Chris Lloyd, Disability Options Network CEO, that the building was available, “And he began thinking about what we could do with a building that big,” she said, adding, “We got it at a bargain and we’re saving a downtown building.”

Since 1974, Vital Statistics was the anchor of the structure. In March, that office and its 37 employees moved to 105 Nesbitt Road, Neshannock Township.

Currently, McKeever said only one tenant — Attorney August Leone — maintains an office in the building.

“And I’ve been told he is anticipating retirement,” she said. 

DON is a consumer controlled, nonprofit family of corporations that empower people with disabilities to live as independently as they choose.

A grassroots advocacy organization, DON concentrates on disability rights issues, as well as skills training, peer support, De-institutionalization and information and referral services with a goal of encouraging independence for all people with disabilities.

Through DON Enterprises/DON Management, the agency encourages people with disabilities to become homeowners and to become self-employed. DON Enterprise assists people to find resources and develop plans to achieve their goals.

The DON family includes the Center for Independent Living which serves Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Mercer, and Westmoreland counties. Other programs include Attendant Services, Nursing Home Transition, Housing, Employment, Home Modifications, a Wellness Program, Peer Support Groups, and Durable Medical Equipment. It also focuses on community revitalization, collaborates with other agencies to create accessible, affordable housing options for disabled individuals while creating a diverse, inclusive, integrated community.

Additionally, DON is the second largest employer in Lawrence County.

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Nancy Lowry is a former reporter at the New Castle News, retiring Dec. 31, 2019, after many years covering government, school boards and writing feature stories.

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