An abandoned brownfield in West Newton's old commercial district has been transformed into a handsome new square named after one of the area's first settlers. The $675,000 Simeral Square project -- named for pioneer ferry operator Alexander Simeral -- has a stage, a sprawling lawn, bike racks, benches, light posts and a walkway that's handicapped accessible.
Simeral Square is designed on a "Bridge to Tomorrow" plan that connects the square on the east side of the bridge with the trail on the town's west side. A visitor center for the trail and its town has opened in a new building based on the design of the old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad station that had stood on the same spot. Officials said the trail and visitor center has already spurred economic growth on the west side with the opening of the West Newton Bike Shop, Bright Morning Bed and Breakfast, Trailside Restaurant and Fox's pizza and ice cream shop.
The square was funded by these grants: $250,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; $218,000 through the Appalachian Regional Commission sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; $144,000 from the Westmoreland County Department of Planning and Community Development; $70,000 from the Progress Fund through the R.K. Mellon Foundation; $50,000 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development; $10,000 from the Port of Pittsburgh Commission and from local donors through the Bricks & Amenities Campaign.