The City of McKeesport is moving forward with infrastructure improvements and neighborhood revitalization thanks to the “McKeesport Rising Project,” introduced by Mayor Michael Cherepko with a $2.5 million addition to the city’s 2018 budget.
The mayor described his plans in late 2017 – referring to stories of a majestic phoenix rising from its own ashes. He used the image as a striking metaphor for any spiritual, societal, or economic rebirth, that will serve McKeesport as a renaissance as local leaders and residents work to rebuild the community after decades of economic setbacks. Municipalities across the Mon Valley have shared a common plight, as local officials continue to rebuild whole communities that lost their viability when the steel industry collapsed in the 1980s.
“We have made countless economic strides in recent years,” Cherepko said. “We’ve attracted new retail and industrial development. We’ve linked existing businesses with resources to grow. And we’ve partnered with state, county, and federal governments to improve our bridges and roadways.”
With the sale of McKeesport’s local sewage treatment system to Pennsylvania American Water, the has access to funds that will allow for continued improvements, specifically in the removal of blight and improvement of infrastructure. When he introduced “McKeesport Rising,” Cherepko anticipated the condemnation of 150 properties in the first year. He surpassed that goal, and nearly 300 have been condemned. Work will begin on three demolition contracts before the end of 2018.
“It is no secret that blight can have a detrimental impact on the quality of life in any community,” Cherepko said. “Blight not only disheartens residents and brings down the community’s collective morale, but it actually breeds crime.”
Cherepko referenced a 2013 Tri-GOG study that confirmed a significant blight problem across the Mon Valley and quantified the elevated costs associated with code enforcement, public safety calls, and demolition.
In addition to demolition, a major component of “McKeesport Rising” is infrastructure improvements, and to the average resident, that means road repairs. McKeesport purchased equipment, including the Asphalt Zipper, which will allow the city to reclaim road surfaces and reapply materials in the filling of potholes and the construction of a new road surface.
In addition projects that directly utilize the “McKeesport Rising” budgetary line item, Cherepko and the city’s Community Development Department are putting federal and state funding toward additional infrastructure improvements at the Marina at McKees Point, Bowman Avenue in the City’s Highland Grove neighborhood, and Duncan and Fawcett fields. Working closely with the city’s Public Works and Recreation departments, funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District is being used to make pavilion upgrades in Renziehausen Park.
“Overall, the first phase of ‘The McKeesport Rising Project’ will have the greatest impact,” Cherepko said. “The city will invest in materials that will allow us to improve our current infrastructure and maintain it for many years to come. Future phases of this project will keep efforts moving through a steady schedule of demolitions, road repairs, and other strategies.”