To quell safety issues created by illegal trespass and juveniles using the location as a party haven, Sewickley officials have decided to demolish the Sewickley Country Inn property, 801 Ohio River Blvd.
The former motor lodge, restaurant and banquet facility closed in 2009 and was most recently used in 2011 for the filming of the Tom Cruise movie "Jack Reacher."
Demolition on the 3-acre parcel began Jan. 28. Prior to that, asbestos removal was completed, Mayor Brian Jeffe said.
Future use of the site awaits outcome of litigation as to the property's zoning. Although the parcel had been used as a place to house travelers since the 1850s, zoning always has been residential.
According to Harton Semple, executive director of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, the 1850 conversion of a private home known as Elmwood into the Elmhurst Inn was the beginning of the location's lodging history.
In 1959, Elmhurst Inn was torn down and the Sewickley Motor Inn was built. The motor inn had various owners over the years and during the 1970s was known as a Holiday Inn. In 1985, the location became known as Sewickley Country Inn. "Time has just passed it by," Mr. Jeffe said. In keeping with its residential zoning, a portion of the property along Thorn Street will include townhome construction. Proposed office space on the remainder of the land awaits court decision.
Demolition work began soon after the razing of buildings once belonging to Ascot Imported Cars Inc. of Sewickley along Walnut and Thorn streets. Ascot once housed Lotus, Range Rover, Rolls Royce and Bentley vehicles at the dealership, as well as other high-end vehicles. The importer closed its doors in October 2011.
With the leveling of those former showrooms, the town will be "undergoing a massive face-lift," Mr. Jeffe said.
Groundbreaking on an office building complex is expected to begin in April at Ascot's former Thorn Street lot. The borough is weighing its options and discussing the possibility of making the Walnut Street location into a parking garage, Mr. Jeffe said.
He referred to the empty storefront on Walnut as "a smile with a missing tooth" for the business district, locally known as The Village.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: email@example.com.