The approximately 50,000 square foot former Linder’s Fine Furnishings and Rugs complex located between Thompson Avenue and Yunker Street in McKees Rocks has found a new lease on life thanks to the work of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. (MRCDC).
The non-profit worked to attract the buyer and to broker the sale of the multi-building site purchased in 2019 by SSR Creative, LLC of which artist Ryan Lammie is a key partner. Since then, the complex has been undergoing a series of updates including new roofs and the gradual gutting and rebuilding of interior spaces. Portions are nearing completion to be ready for rental space and a 12,500 square foot section is already leased to a regional nonprofit providing artist studio spaces.
“The redevelopment of the old Linder’s Furniture complex into activated, diverse, multi-purpose, commercial spaces for office, fabrication, light-manufacturing, and art, etc. is a terrific development for McKees Rocks,” said Jeb Feldman, MRCDC director of economic development.
“Turning a space that housed minimal activity, primarily functioning as a darkened and closed warehouse, and turning it into an active facility that will house numerous jobs while generating energy and interaction beside our downtown, fits in as an important element to the work of the CDC and to the future of the health of our downtown and local economy.”
The initial lessee, Radiant Hall, is a group dedicated to providing facilities that “allow artists to focus on their creative practice, work in the same communities in which they live, and stay in neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment.”
Like the group’s other locations in Lawrenceville and Homewood, McKees Rocks also fits that bill. Launched in April, Radiant Hall West now hosts artist studio spaces in a variety of sizes as well as flex space for use in community and pop-up events. Ramon Riley is the studio director for the McKees Rocks site.
Meet Ryan Lammie
Lammie is also the executive director of Radiant Hall. He is housing his personal studio space in the former Linder’s complex and has plans in the works to become a homeowner in the community, as well.
“McKees Rocks is the most authentic Pittsburgh community and it’s been able to hold on to its character through a lot of changes,” said Lammie, who finds the people here friendly and supportive of their neighbors.
Lammie became invested in the arts as a child, later holding a residency at the Yale University School of Art and attending the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts and the Rhode Island School of Design.
Following his return to Pittsburgh after earning his art school degree from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Lammie said he and a friend were having a hard time finding studio space for themselves. This ultimately leads them in 2012 to “an old Polish social hall” in Lawrenceville.
The find is converted into artist workspaces. The 28-studio space was quickly filled and “showed that there is a need for artist workspaces,” said Lammie. The Lawrenceville site was without a name for about a year, ultimately picking up the name long carved above the building’s entrance: “Radiant Hall.” Later the group became a nonprofit overseen by 15 board members. In addition to being a space and community for artists, the group provides a platform for them to engage in critical dialogue.
MRCDC has high hopes for the impact Radiant Hall West and other organizations moving into the site will have on the McKees Rocks community as it relates to an increased tax base and overall property health.
Its launch is an “important building block and significant investment” in our downtown strategy, said Taris Vrcek, executive director of the community development group.
“What is the significance of an organization like Radiant Hall choosing McKees Rocks? It speaks volumes and shows that we’ve truly arrived as a community of choice.”
Radiant Hall Board Member Gina Beavers serves on the group’s subcommittee specific to the impact the organization will have on McKees Rocks. Beavers is also the communications coordinator and grant manager at Focus on Renewal and serves as the McKees Rocks area NAACP chartering committee chair.
The “McKees Rocks Artist Support” subcommittee’s intention is to contemplate how Radiant Hall West not only benefits the McKees Rocks community but also partners with the community and its artists.
“[Radiant Hall West] does not want to be a tower on the hill but an active member of the community through arts and more,” she said.
To that end, Radiant Hall West is already having an impact on the local Sto-Rox community. Artists here are partnering with the Sto-Rox School District and Sara Eve Rivera, artist and owner of PMA Tattoo in Stowe, on a student-led effort to create public artwork celebrating the brilliance, creativity and tenacity of the youth in the Sto-Rox community.
For this project, they are seeking volunteer community members, writers, artists, and creatives to serve as resources and help students realize their visions for public art on the walls of their very own school building. Using a diverse group of creatives from many different disciplines and mediums the students learn how art, creativity, and collaboration can help them achieve any goal.
To get involved, radianthall.org/about#contact.