Civic center plan being reconsidered in South Fayette

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South Fayette is reconsidering its civic center plan.

Commissioners said last week they want to hold a public forum on the future of the former Star City Cinemas, which the township purchased four years ago with the intention of converting it into a civic center.

But the plan for the building on Route 50 at the Bridgeville interchange of Interstate 79 has been put on hold because of potentially high operating and maintenance costs.

Officials now are considering whether to move forward with the plan or sell the property to a private developer and possibly build a civic center somewhere else.

"I know we don't have enough money to build the civic center that was envisioned by the previous board, so we would have to figure out how to make that happen," Commissioner Joe Horowitz said at the Aug. 14 board meeting.

He said a public forum would give constituents an opportunity to voice whether they would want to raise taxes to build a civic center.

No date was set for the forum.

The township building at 515 Millers Run Road houses the municipal offices, police department, library and senior center. A new civic center would accommodate those facilities plus provide recreational space.

Commissioner Lisa Malosh said the long-term cost of operating a larger municipal facility is a major consideration.

"It's one thing to say, does everybody want it, do we need it? It's another thing to say, here's what it looks like five, 10 years down the road from an expense perspective," she said.

In 2009, South Fayette bought the 95,000-square-foot Star City building and 15 acres for $5.25 million, which was borrowed through a bond issue.

Since then, the township has sold two parcels on the site -- a 0.75-acre lot to Washington Financial Bank and a 2.6-acre lot to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, which broke ground in May for a 60,000-square-foot outpatient pediatric center.

UPMC bought the property for $1.65 million and agreed to donate $100,000 toward the township's civic center project, under the condition that South Fayette begin civic center renovation within five years or demolish or sell the former theater.

Mr. Horowitz said the township needs more input and information before making any decisions.

"I don't think we have any realistic knowledge of how much that [Star City] property would be able to be sold for, or if anybody would be interested in it," he said.

Attorney Wayne Gerhold, the township's bond counsel, told commissioners last week that they have "complete flexibility" to use the proceeds from the UPMC land sale however they wish because they sold the land to a nonprofit.

For example, he said, the $1.65 million could go toward general expenses, capital improvements or the $550,000-a-year debt service on the 2009 bond issue that had funded the Star City purchase.

The $8.04 million bond issue included $5.25 million to buy Star City and $2.79 million to refinance existing debt.

About $7.2 million is owed on that bond issue, Mr. Gerhold said.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer:


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