Former Eatery Makes Way for Senior Housing

Lutheran SeniorLife is planning to build housing for senior citizens in the LIFE Butler County program on property in Butler where a former restaurant is being demolished.

Demolition of a vacant building at 438 S. Chestnut St. in the Island neighborhood that used to be Serventi’s Restaurant started Wednesday to make way for a senior housing development.

The distinctive yellow building housed the popular Italian restaurant and lounge since 1955 before the owners sold it in April 2014. The building was later used for a barbecue restaurant for a short time, but has been empty for the past several years.

“We currently operate a small home right across the street from that property. We’re planning to build a second small home there. It’s going to be a senior residential living home used by our Life Butler participants,” said Mark O’Donnell, Lutheran SeniorLife director of system development and communications.

The existing duplex at 316-320 S. Chestnut St. is home to six people, he said.

Lutheran SeniorLife has not yet applied to the city for a building permit for the property.

O’Donnell said plans for the new property haven’t been finalized and he doesn’t know how many people or units the new development will house.

“It’s part of the LIFE program, which stands for Living Independence for the Elderly,” O’Donnell said.

Residents of the new home will receive transportation to LIFE Butler County, located nearby on Diamond Street, he said.

LIFE Butler County, a partnership between Lutheran SeniorLife and the Butler Health System, provides primary care, skilled nursing, therapy, meals, recreation and home support to seniors living in their homes who qualify for medical assistance.

The property is a C-2 central business district zone in which multiple-family dwellings containing three or more units are permitted, said John Evans, city building code official.

Two buildings were located on the property.

DemEx, a demolition and excavation contractor of Zelienople, tore down one of the buildings that was once a house on Wednesday before a rainstorm halted work. Demolition of the brick and block restaurant building is next.

The property will be cleared by early next week, said Jake Dressler IV, DemEx managing partner.

He said utilities were shut off and some asbestos was removed before demolition started, and the demolition is going smoothly.

“A very simple demolition,” Dressler said, adding that the house looked like it was built at least 70 years ago.

Blocks from the restaurant building will be removed from the site and then crushed into aggregate, so it can be used for building foundations and driveways, he said.

DemEx will also prepare the site for new construction by digging trenches for utility lines, as it did last year for a Lutheran SeniorLife project in Zelienople, he said.

Lutheran SeniorLife is one of DemEx’s best customers.

“They’re going to put some nice homes here. They’re going to make it nice. They care about their properties and the end users. I almost want to live there. They’re very nice, quality construction,” Dressler said.