Signs of progress for downtown Trafford
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With a background in remodeling empty or dilapidated structures, Mark Fichtner saw an opportunity in Trafford last fall when his firm, Penn-Pioneer Enterprises, bought property along Cavitt Avenue.
Eight months after work began to transform a former antiques shop into 2,200 square feet of office space and an upstairs apartment, Penn-Pioneer is wrapping up a project to turn 422 Cavitt into the firm’s base of operations for Western Pennsylvania building-rehabilitation projects.
“It’s fun to see something that’s been vacant for 10 years turn into something that’s a showpiece,” said Fichtner, managing member of the firm.
The remodeling of the building — which will provide work space for six or seven employees — could be the start of better days for the Trafford business district. Members of the nonprofit Trafford Economic and Community Development Corp. have been looking for a remodeling or redevelopment project to help spark a resurgence downtown.
“It’s ideal,” group President Mark Lenart said. “That’s what Trafford needs. There’s got to be signs of progress.”
Local officials are taking an active role, too. Last week, borough council condemned the “bank building” at Cavitt Avenue and Fifth Street. In February, the same fate was tagged to the former Trafford Motor Co. building at Fifth and Duquesne Avenue.
Officials say both of those buildings are in danger of collapsing, and council last month joined the Westmoreland County Land Bank in an effort to get assistance for demolitions or other redevelopment projects.
Meanwhile, a few other projects are moving forward.
Across the street from Penn-Pioneer’s office, Renee Cappetta is working on turning a former hardware store next to her eatery, Parente’s Ristorante, into antiques shop called Esther’s Treasures.
Also on Cavitt Avenue, Matt Mastroianni is planning a 1,000-square-foot addition to the 800-square-foot building that his sign business is in. He said the expansion is needed so Mastro Signs can complete lettering on vehicles during winter.
Mastroianni — who operated his sign business out of his Trafford home before moving it to its current location three years ago — has a contract to put lettering on Giant Eagle vehicles but has to do the work at a friend’s home in Manor.
Buying in Trafford has gives his company some stability, he said, and lets community members know that he’s not going anywhere.
“Right now, I think we’re on the edge of good stuff happening,” Mastroianni said. “I think if we get a few more businesses established, over time, it can be built up to where there is a lot more foot traffic in town.”