School Board Hears Plan for Junior High Property

An aerial view of the former Kittanning Junior High School property shows how a new high rise apartment building (center) , commercial center (right), and parking lot adjacent to McKean Way alley would be configured.

The Armstrong School District Board members heard official plans last night that would turn the now-vacant lot of the former Kittanning Junior High School into a three-story highrise property for senior citizens.

William J. Gatti, President of Trek Development Group, who has built and operates the Valley View complex in Manor Township and the Kittanning Cottages on North McKean Street in Kittanning, said the new highrise will accommodate 36 apartments of senior housing.

Trek Development President William Gatti addressed the Armstrong School District Board of Directors last night.

“A portion of the units are set aside for persons on a fixed income. The remainder of the units would pay the prevailing market rate,” Gatti said.

“We have applied for tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency last fall. We hope to be awarded those tax credits this Spring and begin building by the end of the year.

“The apartments would have either one or two bedrooms, outdoor terraces, and patios.”

Gatti said they are also courting a bank which would build a branch office in the section of the property that formerly was the gymnasium for the school.

“We have reserved the eastern portion of the site of a little less than half of an acre for commercial development,” Gatti said, although he wouldn’t give specifics on the negotiations now in progress. Once built, the commercial building would set between the current Honey Bear Sunoco convenience store and the new highrise.

“Having some sort of business property was important to Kittanning Borough Council when we met with them. We tried to work with all the major players in the community to design something that would best serve the residents of the area,” Gatti told board members.

The property across Vine Street that formerly served as a school playground would be donated to the Armstrong County Historical Society.

“We’ve entered into a partnership with the Historical Society to donate a piece of ground back to them to serve their Great Lawn area, an historical artifact in the Kittanning landscape.”

Gatti said the total cost of the project is approximately $12 million. Currently, Trek has obtain an option on the property as is waiting to see if they are approved for tax credit funding. Gatti said that Senator Don White has been supportive, although it is highly competitive and there is no guarantee they will be awarded the money. If it doesn’t happen this year, Trek said they would reapply for next year, but that it would slow down the process of construction.

“We absolutely have to have the tax credit funding to move ahead with the project,” Gatti said.

ASD Board Member Reardon Mulroy questioned the number of parking spaces.

“It doesn’t look to me to be enough parking – less than one space per apartment,” Mulroy said.

“It meets current borough and state codes, but we will take another look at it,” Gatti said.

There was also the question of who would pave the alley behind the building that would experience significant usage. Gatti said the project is not at the stage yet where those issues have been decided.

Unlike the three highrise buildings in Kittanning which are operated through a federal program and the Armstrong County Housing Authority, this highrise would be privately owned and operated, and would begin paying real estate taxes once the Keystone Opportunity Zone designation ends in 2025.

A artist view looks at the new apartment complex from the corner of North McKean Street and Vine Street in Kittanning.