Collapsing buildings close New Castle streets, hurt local businesses

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WYTV) – Two major streets in downtown New Castle are shut down because two buildings are on the verge of collapse, making life difficult for local businesses.

Parts of South Mill Street and Croton Avenue are closed indefinitely. A barricade has been up for nearly a month and businesses along the two streets said it’s hurting their bottom line. Still, New Castle Fire Chief Eric Lee Perry said he has no plans to take it down anytime soon.

Some buildings at the corner have been in bad shape for a while — broken windows, buckling woodwork, and holes in the façade.

In mid-March, Perry said they took a turn for the worse when pieces began falling off. He said it’s not a question of if the buildings will collapse, but when.

“Just looking at the decay on a day-to-day basis, you can see where the foundation of both buildings is extremely questionable.”

Perry said it’s a hazard to traffic on the bridge and to the river below.

“It’s also an environmental hazard because of the asbestos in those buildings. If we allow them to continue to decay, all of that asbestos is going to end up in the river.”

Steven Daugherty, owner of Ciaella and Carney Florals, said his business is suffering because of it. He said Easter, which is normally one of the shop’s biggest money makers, was terrible this year.

“It’s our busiest time of the year. It’s Mother’s Day, all the proms, and we depend on that.”

Owner Hector Marquez said Two Rivers Artisan Coffee Works has seen a 20 to 25 percent drop in daily traffic flow Monday through Friday.

While Chief Perry sympathizes with the local business owners, he said safety comes first and that the owners of the buildings need to either stabilize it or tear it down.

“Unless and until that building is stabilized, there is no way that I am going to let anybody drive on the bridge or on the other side of PA 108, no way.”

The ban is a nuisance, but Marquez said he wants the buildings to be saved.

“We’re willing to tough it out a little bit longer to see something like that awesome building be restored.”

Daugherty wants a quick solution to bring the barricade down.

“Let’s just get it open so we can get on with our lives,” he said.

The owner of the buildings — 103 South Mill Street Group — has not responded to a request for comment.