Community Supports Grant for Anchor Building Transformation

by | Apr 23, 2018 | News

Gable’s Limited Partnership (GLP), the private sector ownership group of the former Gable’s Department Store Building in Downtown Altoona, joined with City Officials, the Blair County Historical Society and the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation, on April 20, 2018, to announce a plan to remove the brick encasement which covers the original façade and windows in order to daylight the building. The Gable’s Building footprint spans both 11th and 12th Avenues in Altoona’s central business district and has served as a marquis building for more than 100 years.

“The Gable’s Building has been a very important part of our City’s history and landscape,” said Altoona Mayor Matt Pacifico. “Imagining it once again with its historic façade and windows uncovered will no doubt stir many emotions and great memories for the people who once worked and shopped there. This is a bold and welcomed vision for the building’s future,” Pacifico added.

GLP has applied for a $3 million grant through the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) to jump start the façade removal phase of the project. GLP has committed to match the public funding if awarded and continue with renovations as interest in the building is secured. The RACP grant application was made through ABCD Corporation. An award decision is expected to be made later this year. If successful, GLP anticipates the project would be completed by the end of 2020.

“With so much interest in Downtown Altoona in recent years, the time is right for us to advance this public/private partnership effort which will hopefully seed an important and needed first phase of the project,” said GLP Partner, Andrea Cohen. “We can imagine that many people in our community will want to watch the process of removing the current all brick façade revealing once again the building we remember so fondly,” Cohen added.

Constructed in 1884, Gable’s Department Store served as the region’s retail hub and gathering place. Shifts in retail shopping pushed shopping options from City-centers to suburban strip centers and malls throughout the 1970s.

Gable’s attempted to keep pace by altering its classic façade, encasing the building and covering its windows in brick to model its competitors’ look. Ultimately unable to compete, Gables closed as a retail operation in 1980.

“Smaller cities and their main streets are once again seeing a rebirth here and across the country,” said Stephen McKnight, President and CEO of the ABCD. “This anchor building project would serve as another milestone among the many central business district investments in recent years to include Penn State Altoona, UPMC, and the several specialty shops, eateries, lodging and residential units. These are the type of projects that will help continue the City’s renaissance, attract jobs and ensure our competitiveness for the next 100 years,” McKnight added.

Since the 1980s the building has served as a multi-tenant office building which today contains 26 businesses which collectively employ 184 individuals. “It’s very appropriate that this announcement coincide with the City’s Sesquicentennial Celebration which will include a series of events throughout the remainder of 2018,” said Joseph DeFrancesco, Executive Director of the Blair County Historical Society. “This building has remained of great interest to us and so many who shared friendships, experiences and memories originating from within its walls. All roads lead to Gable’s as they say so we hope this grant is approved and we can witness the building’s original look reborn,” DeFrancesco added.

GLP encourages all who would like to share their memories of the building, pictures or other experiences do so by visiting the “Long Live Gable’s” Facebook Page. That Facebook page is managed by writer/researcher Robert Jeschonek who wrote the book The Glory of Gable’s which was published in 2017. More than 600 people have already engaged there and expressed support.

Gable’s Limited Partnership is a real-estate partnership between Blair Companies Real Estate and Lawruk Real Estate. GLP is the current owner operator of the Gable’s Building. For more information contact Steve Gardner, Lawruk Real Estate, 814-944-3549.


Story from the April 21, 2018 edition of the Altoona Mirror available here.

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