Renovation eyed for Washington Trust Building

December 21, 2012
Exterior of the Washington Trust Building at the corner of South Main and East Beau streets in Washington February 9, 2011. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

One of downtown Washington’s oldest and most distinguished buildings could be in for a new owner and an extreme makeover.

“We believe it’s an excellent redevelopment, revitalization project for Washington,” said Bill McGowen, chief executive of the Washington County Redevelopment Authority, after announcing Friday that there may be big things in store for the Washington Trust Building.

Built in 1902 at the corner of Beau and Main streets, the 90,000-square-foot office building has been up for sale since 2010. It is owned by the Richman family but registered with the county recorder of deeds as being owned by Washington Trust Building Inc.

According to McGowen, the authority has been working with William J. Gatti Jr., president of Trek Development, to coordinate the purchase of the building and a $17 million renovation project.

Trek’s resume includes various revitalization projects in Pittsburgh, including the Century Building in the city’s Cultural District. That building, originally was built in 1907, now consists of nine floors of residential housing, two floors of commercial and amenity space, and a street-level restaurant and banquet room.

“We are very excited to be working on the prospective redevelopment of a building as iconic as the Washington Trust Building,” said Gatti. “We will undertake a comprehensive revitalization that will return this historic structure to its former glory.”

While the project is still in the preliminary stages, Gatti said it is progressing and is “becoming more and more of a reality.”

Plans for the Trust building are for it to contain commerical offices, ground floor retail and up to 44 residential apartments, he said. Trek will be the owner/operator of the facility.

Before work can begin, however, Gatti explained that a financial structure that combines private equity and debt with some public resources must be developed.

The project recently got its first funding installment when the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency announced it, along with another in Greene County, were recipients of grants through the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund and Marcellus Shale impact fees.

The Washington project received $625,0000, while $600,000 was allotted for the Gateway Senior Housing project in Waynesburg.

The PHARE and impact fee funding must be used to provide “affordable” rental housing for residents who earn less than 50 percent of the median area income, according to PHFA spokesman Bryce Maritzki.

The Waynesburg project entails the building of a four-story apartment complex at the northeast corner of High and East streets by PIRHL Developers LLC of Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

David Burg, principal of PIRHL, said the project is estimated to cost $10 million.

The building will provide housing for people 62 years and older who are on a fixed income, he said. Rent for a single-bedroom apartment would be between $410 and $500 and for a two-bedroom apartment between $480 and $530.

Both projects, however, are contingent upon further funding from the sale of federal low-income housing tax credits, which are awarded to developers on a competitive basis. Funding applications are due in February with successful applicants being announced in July.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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