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Laying Foundations

The Progress Fund makes loans for construction and reconstruction

Greensburg, PA – April 16, 2007 – You know the saying about construction: Before you start, estimate the time and money it will take, and double them both.

What if your dream is to rebuild the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Duncan House, which was dismantled, trucked three states from its origin, and left in storage for years? That’s the project under construction at Polymath Park Resort, where CEO Tom Papinchak’s crew is completing the final touches on Wright’s Duncan House, backed by financing from The Progress Fund.

Not far away in Uniontown, The Progress Fund lined up financing for the new $1 million restaurant Pasta Lorenzo. And in New Castle, The Progress Fund is providing part of the $660,000 package underwriting Lanigan’s Irish Pub.

Why? Because new construction and reconstruction can do wonders for tourism, especially when they respect history and play off of existing attractions. The Duncan House is a perfect example.

Built in Lisle, Ill., in 1957, The Duncan House was slated for demolition until Wright preservationists decided to buy, dismantle, and move it. It’s now being rebuilt at Polymath Park Resort in Acme, Pa., near two houses designed by one of Wright’s original apprentices.

“It’s a very intense and demanding project,” says Tom, out on the job site on a rainy Saturday.

When an initial financial plan didn’t pan out, The Progress Fund’s flexible approach to lending allowed it to step in and lend 80 percent of the money needed to rebuild Wright’s Duncan House. It is now slated to be the cornerstone of a $1 million Wright-inspired development that will complement the famed architect’s nearby masterpieces Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob.

In rebuilding Duncan House, the Polymath Park construction crew faced surprises from the moment they opened the doors of the trailer containing its parts. The markings left by the company that dismantled the house were almost indecipherable. There were four sets of blueprints that didn’t agree. Fortunately, experience in entrepreneurism and development helped control costs and stay on schedule, and The Progress Fund was there every step of the way..

The Duncan House is set to open in June. It will be one of just four Wright-designed homes nationwide that are used for overnight lodging, this will include a basement seminar center. The three homes at Polymath Park will become part of a unique resort also open for public tours, with a gift shop, visitor’s center and more Wright-inspired lodging in a natural setting.

Combined with Wright’s Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, Polymath Park Resort offers the perfect compliment to a tour of the Wright homes in the Laurel Highlands. Guests can tour by day, and stay at Polymath Park overnight. “It’s an extra jewel in the Laurel Highlands’ crown,” he says. “It’s going to enhance the whole area.”

New Castle’s history is interwoven with a strong Scotch-Irish thread. It was there, for instance, that the Celtic-dominated Pennsylvania Roundheads formed and embarked on their storied service in the Civil War. What better place for an Irish pub?

With just that in mind, retired policeman Rick Russo and his wife Maureen Russo (nee Lanigan), a doctor’s receptionist, bought the 19th Century Stritmaters Building. The downtown landmark had fallen vacant, but now it’s getting a whiskey shot of life. When they’re done with Lanigan’s, the menu, entertainment, and even some staff will be straight from the old country.

“We feel we saved this historical building, and will bring it back to its Victorian splendor,” says Russo.

New Castle city government and the state are working together to spur new downtown nightspots, including a comedy club and a jazz club. The Progress Fund loaned $250,000 to the Russos, based both on the viability of the Lanigan’s business plan and the opportunity to participate in uplifting a downtown.

Chef Joe Carei along with partners Marcial Agabon and Jim Stambaugh are betting Uniontown is ready for a million-dollar restaurant that combines a casual atmosphere with great food. The owner of Uniontown’s Caileigh’s Restaurant, Chef Joe has community spirit and enthusiasm for the local tourism industry. When he was diagnosed with cancer just as Caileigh’s took off, volunteer chefs stood in for him during crucial times in his treatment.

“Knowing the tourism growth here, seeing it first hand, we knew this would be a good fit for The Progress Fund,” which also financed Caileigh’s, says Chef Joe. The Progress Fund loaned $300,000 toward his new venture, Pasta Lorenzo, and lined up Pennsylvania’s First Industries Tourism program and federal Small Business Administration financing totaling $497,000.

A short walk or drive from eight hotels, Pasta Lorenzo will enhance the Laurel Highlands’ other attractions. There will even be a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright: Just as nearby Fallingwater juts daringly over a cascade, Pasta Lorenzo will feature a cantilevered deck allowing Chef Joe to maximize seating on the 30,000-square-foot lot.

The Progress Fund’s focus on tourism, and its access to state and federal low-interest financing programs, again made it the right source for financial building blocks.

There’s another old construction saying: Measure twice, cut once. As much as that applies to saws and boards, it’s just as true when you’re trying to fit the right project into the right market, with a partner whose measuring tape is as long as your dreams.