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The March 17 unveiling of Port Authority of Allegheny County’s new and improved McKeesport Transportation Center is a standout example of the positive strides taking place in McKeesport right now.
State, county, and local officials gathered along Lysle Boulevard on March 17 for the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s unveiling of a new and improved McKeesport Transportation Center. This modernized facility is a standout example of the positive strides taking place in McKeesport right now.
Port Authority’s $4.4 million investment in its McKeesport hub – improved passenger amenities including bicycle racks, decorative canopies and benches, ConnnectCard kiosks, and an increase from 66 to 85 parking spaces – translates to much more than a better facility for local bus riders. It is another shot in the arm for Mayor Michael Cherepko’s McKeesport Rising initiative, with progress and economic development taking shape downtown.
The McKeesport Transportation Center is located at 541 Lysle Boulevard – accessible by Port Authority bus routes 55-Glassport, 56-Lincoln Place, 59-Mon Valley, 60-Walnut-Crawford Village, 61C-McKeesport-Homestead, and P7-McKeesport Flyer. It includes park-and-ride spaces for commuters to travel on those routes, making it an important link to the Monongahela Valley. The project was completed in two phases over a five-year period – all running concurrently with McKeesport Rising.
“Today’s event is a testament to everything we are doing to show residents and investors alike that McKeesport is ripe for development,” Cherepko said. “We have renovations in progress, and the blighted buildings that can’t be saved are on their way out. Small businesses are making a name for themselves downtown, and large corporations have made our riverfront their home.”
During the grand re-opening event, Cherepko turned the group’s attention to the surrounding cityscape, where local landmarks such as the Daily News, People’s Bank, and Executive Building are being restored. Across Lylse Boulevard, dilapidated and long-abandoned buildings are being prepped for demolition through DCED’s Neighborhood Partnership Program funded by Duquesne Light, First Commonwealth Bank, and UPMC Health Plan. Further down Fifth Avenue the Commonwealth Financing Authority’s Blight Remediation Program is being utilized for the demolition of additional abandoned storefronts and warehouses.
The former Penn McKee Hotel is another site being examined for potential redevelopment with a portion of the NPP dollars dedicated to securing the building and state and federal grants in place for the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport to take on environmental remediation and partial demolition projects that would allow for possible reconstruction and revitalization of this local landmark.
The idea is that the existing blight will be replaced in the short term with shovel ready property that developers have been requesting. With frontage on both Lysle Boulevard and Fifth Avenue, these lots are prime real estate for retail development.
Behind the mayor, on the former U.S. Steel Tube Works site, the RIDC Riverplace Industrial Center of McKeesport is nearly filled to capacity as PurePenn/Trulieve work through another round of expansion of their medical marijuana manufacturing facility. The company, originated as PurePenn and absorbed by Trulieve in 2021, purchased more than 500,000 square feet of warehouse space and 38 acres of land to for the growth and cultivation of cannabis. This $10.8 million investment by the Florida-based international company brings hope for the facility’s 200 employees to grow to 800.
Just across the RIDC park is River Materials, which made its home on an 18-acre parcel along the Monongahela River that is ideal for truck, barge, and rail intermodal activities. This development made its way through a series of obstacles and challenges, including the opinion that River Materials’ acreage included a portion of the industrial center that was previously considered undesirable or unlikely to be developed. The end result was positive for River Materials, RIDC, and the City of McKeesport.
Pennsylvania Senator James R. Brewster, a member of the Port Authority board, spoke about the transportation center in the shared context with the mayor.
“This isn’t just a piece of concrete that buses come through,” Brewster said. “This is a big piece of the puzzle that began 30 years ago.”
Senator Brewster played an integral role in securing multimodal funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to renovate the city-owned Lysle Boulevard Parking Garage. The garage, which has been closed for about 20 years, is set to undergo renovations to accommodate commuters who are working, shopping, or utilizing public transportation downtown.
Cherepko said the transportation center and garage are ways to facilitate further growth. McKeesport remains the hub of the Mon Valley, and these amenities provide easy access to Pittsburgh. The idea is that a modernized center will offer easy trips for commuters in and out of McKeesport.
“Many folks, for many years, have written the Mon Valley off and said our brightest days are behind us,” said state Representative Austin Davis, also a Port Authority board member. “Well, I stand here to tell you that our brightest days are still ahead of us.”
While McKeesport may not look like it did 50 years ago, Cherepko said, it’s still the hub of the Mon Valley, and significant improvements have been made in recent years.
“We are positioned at the confluence of two rivers. We still have access by barge and railroads. We have easy access to Pittsburgh, and the highways aren’t too far away,” the mayor said. “When McKeesport reinvents itself as a destination for a variety of services for residents of this part of Allegheny County, residents and commuters will continue to see our city grow.”
Cherepko discussed McKeesport Rising in terms of eliminating blight and making shovel-ready property available to future developers.
“We have razed 400 buildings in town – many residential and some commercial – and we are getting started on hundreds more in 2022,” he said. “Blight seems like it just keeps popping up. We take one step forward but take two steps back, but I think we are finally getting a handle on this obstacle.”
In 2022, Cherepko anticipates the McKeesport Rising initiative will target another 300 residential structures across the city’s 12 wards and several commercial areas.