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Proposed Hotel in Old Westinghouse 'Castle' Gets $1M Boost

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
December 28, 2017
Posted in: Announcements

The developer of a proposed luxury hotel in the former Westinghouse Air Brake Co. "castle" in Wilmerding will receive $1 million in state assistance toward the rehabilitation of the site.

The grant, from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, was announced Thursday by state Sens. Jim Brewster of McKeesport and Joe Markosek of Monroeville.

“The repurposing of the Westinghouse Castle is a signature project that will generate local economic activity and create jobs," Brewster said in a prepared statement.

Empty since 2009, the so-called "castle" on a clearing near the corner of Marguerite Avenue and Bluff Street was built in 1896 on the site of the previous WABCO offices, which were destroyed by fire.

The building, used as the general office building of WABCO, included an executive office for the company's founder, inventor and industrialist George Westinghouse, and was drastically expanded in the 1920s.

As originally constructed, the building also included a library, gymnasium, bowling alley, swimming pool and meeting facilities for use by borough residents.

WABCO, now Wilmerding-based Wabtec, moved out of the castle in 1985, and donated it to the American Process and Inventory Control Society. When APICS moved to a different location in 2006, it sold the "castle" to a local non-profit group, Wilmerding Renewed.

But the group struggled with the maintenance and upkeep of the 55,000-square-foot building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

John Graf, who created The Priory in a former monastery on Pittsburgh's North Side, purchased the Wilmerding property at a sheriff's sale in 2016 for $100,000. He has estimated that rehabilitating the building will cost more than $11 million, including local, state and federal assistance and $5 million in private funding, according to a report by Brian Conway of NextPittsburgh.

Priory Hospitality Group is planning to transform the Westinghouse Castle into a 42-room boutique hotel with banquet space and a restaurant, according to published reports.

It would also house the George Westinghouse Museum, including artifacts and documents, which was previously part of the Wilmerding castle but closed in 2009 following a merger with the Senator John Heinz Regional History Center.

Markosek said the Westinghouse Castle project has unique attributes.

“The Westinghouse Castle project is a unique development that preserves the historical nature of the building while adapting the historical landmark for contemporary use,” he said.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018 with a possible target opening in 2019.

Also announced on Thursday was a $2 million state grant to help expand parking facilities for Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc.'s Monroeville site.

Markosek said investing in both projects will help to leverage private investment, preserve existing jobs, add new jobs and grow the local tax base.

“Without question, prudent state investments such as targeting dollars to help the redevelopment of the former Westinghouse Castle, plus helping a large local employer and good corporate partner like BPMI grow, will create even greater benefits for years to come,” Markosek said in a prepared statement. “These are important projects for our local economy and for future economic stability.”

(Photo by Lee Paxton via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under GNU Free Documentation License, CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0.)

Originally published December 28, 2017.

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