Eyesore to get new life


First Posted: 3/29/2013

A downtown eyesore may soon be part of the revitalized Main Street in Pittston.

The former Milazzo Hardware Building, commonly called the Lizza Building after a previous owner, which was unoccupied and deteriorating for the past several years, is set to be secured, then renovated.

Plans include street-level retail or restaurant space and five spacious loft-style apartments on the upper floors.

Pittston Redevelopment Authority member Mike Lombardo, the city’s former mayor, walked through the building last week with a reporter and discussed the building’s future. The Pittston Redevelopment Authority, which currently owns the property, hopes to soon acquire an adjoining lot.

The first step, which began last week, is to clean out the building and stabilize the roof.

The building was acquired by the authority in 2011. The empty lot next to it was once a deteriorating building that had to be demolished. It has a $70,000 lien from the demolition and the authority is in the process of acquiring it. Lombardo hopes a building on the corner, owned by dentist Dr. Cataldo Alfano, could also be part of the renovation project.

“Our plan is to link all the properties,” Lombardo said.

Founded in 1943, the Milazzo family opened the largest hardware store in Pittston. The store was fully stocked with paint and carpentry supplies, with anything and everything for the handyman and housewife. The hardware store was a mainstay of the community, and remained open until 1970.

After the hardware store closed, it was home to a sandblasting company and a plumbing firm and a janitorial service.

The Milazzo family still owns the adjoining building which houses a pet-grooming company, Pawsitively Perfect Pet Salon. That build ing was recently remodeled and has higher-end apartments above it.

The authority is managing the initial phase of the project, but Lombardo said the authority doesn’t want to be the final developer.

“We’re hoping we can get it to a point where it’s stabilized and then it becomes more palatable for a private developer to come in and buy it from us and then finish up the project,” he said. “We’ve got to get it to zero first.”

The debris is mostly old furniture, shelves and fixtures.

There is $40,000 in funding to stabilize the building, Lombardo said. He hopes the project will also be able to use some of the $1 million recently awarded to the city from the state Local Share Account, which distributes money from casino revenue.

“It’s got some potential. It’s a good looking building,” Lombardo said, pointing out the painted-over granite and decorative brick treatment surrounding the window.

Lombardo said some developers have already looked at the building.

“The project is consistent with the revitalization strategy of the city,” he said.

The building will also be part of the next phase of city’s streetscaping project, which will improve the facades and sidewalks from Market Street to Columbus Avenue. That is planned for late 2013 into early 2014.

Two architectural firms, Quad 3 and Williams Kinsman Lewis Architecture, have donated designs for the project, Lombardo said. Lombardo works for Quad 3.

“The ultimate goal is downtown revitalization, increasing the tax base, removing blight and creating more downtown housing in which we use the funding to improve the neighborhoods,” Lombardo said. “It’s part of the big picture.”

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