Highland Hall demolition approved

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Hollidaysburg Borough Council has approved a demolition permit for the damaged section of Highland Hall, Borough Manager Mark Schroyer said Monday.

The demolition is likely to begin within the next week.

Ralph J. Albarano sent a letter to council last week requesting the permit after part of the roof on the back section of the historic building collapsed Oct. 11. The damage was extensive enough to deem the situation an emergency, Schroyer said.

Albarano, president of RADD Development Co., said bids for the demolition have been received but a contract hasn’t been awarded.

He said the damaged section has been “fenced in well” and he wouldn’t expect any further issues assuming the demolition goes as planned.

“I think we all know that it’s in a condition where we need to take it down for everybody’s safety,” Albarano said, “and that’s what we’re going to do.”

In July 2012, Albarano had requested permission from the council to demolish the entire building, leading to a grassroots campaign to save it. RADD purchased the building in 1998, and it has sat vacant since, as needed repairs and renovations have proven extensive and costly.

S&A Homes Executive Vice President Andy Haines submitted a plan to renovate Highland Hall and transform it into senior housing, but funding issues have stalled the project.

Haines applied in August for tax credits to help pay for the renovation, but he was rejected.

Haines said shortly after the collapse that the demolition of the damaged section of the building will not hinder the project and that he will reapply for the needed credits.

Haines said the back of the building would likely have been demolished as part of the renovation.

Highland Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has served a number of functions throughout its history, including a girls’ school, Army radio school and a school for young men operated by the Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic Church. The building most recently housed county offices, which are now in an annex at the county courthouse.

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.