CHESTER - The city has found a buyer for the long-vacant, downtown building that for decades was home to Fineman's Department Store.
Mayor Ken Morris announced the pending sale at Monday night's meeting of Chester Council.
"Everybody that was holding their breath can breathe now," he said.
The city, which bought the building in May 2012 for $50,000, plans to sell the building for the same amount to attorney Eric Frankovitch and Weirton Investments, Morris said.
The blighted building, 505 Carolina Ave., will likely be razed to make space for a parking lot. Morris said Frankovitch also is buying the Cooter Brown's building next door, at the corner of Carolina Avenue and Fifth Street.
"He's going to make some kind of cafe, possibly with an outside eatery," Morris said. "It's going to be an improvement over what's there now."
Morris said the deal is vindication for the city, which "took the step to do something with" the building last year. Some residents took Morris to task for using city money for the purchase, but Morris always defended the city's action, calling it an investment in Chester's main street.
"We bought it off the deadbeat owner in the hopes that someone else would buy it" and develop it into something beneficial for the downtown area, he said. The building has had "for sale" signs on it for months.
Known mainly as the former site of Fineman's Department Store, which closed in 1972, the building also has housed a florist, an insurance agency and, most recently, Taco Huey's Restaurant & Lounge.
The city will use $16,000 in grant money from the state to have the building razed. Juszczak Construction was awarded the contract for the demolition, Morris said.
Closing on the sale is scheduled for Feb. 11.
"This is going to be a big plus for the city," Morris said.
Frankovitch could not be reached for comment.