Simple it’s not…
The stabilization and ultimate redevelopment of the former Bank of McKees Rocks building located at 602 Chartiers Ave. in McKees Rocks is just one of several downtown development projects being tackled by the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC).
From the outside, the pillared building constructed in 1902 may look like a straightforward renovation, but once you take a hard look inside you find it’s far from a simple project. Stacked throughout are about 4,000 (we had them counted) of the old tube-type television sets that were made illegal to dispose of by the state of Pennsylvania in 2010.
To make matters even worse on the environmental front, there are significant asbestos issues aggravated by a roof that has collapsed in places.
Both obstacles need to be addressed whether the building is saved or razed. The cost on either front is similar and runs into the millions of dollars.
“Much like the Roxian Theatre and other sites, this building deserves to be saved. Imagine it as not a vertical landfill but a huge, attractive anchor for the downtown business district,” – Taris Vrcek, executive director.
This type of development when completed can significantly contribute to the borough and school district property tax base.
It also offers new spaces for living and doing business. It helps to further activate that end of Main Street and serves to complement surrounding businesses like longtime anchor Hollowood Music & Sound.
Over the years, the building has operated as the Bank of McKees Rocks, a photo studio, doctor’s offices, apartments and more. In the late 1970s, it was empty for a period of years before being purchased by a real estate broker. The building was used by various businesses over the ensuing years including a television repair shop and has been empty over the past decade.
Why did MRCDC get involved?
Because that’s what CDCs do!
“The bank building is an iconic, historic structure that’s emblematic of the heyday of McKees Rocks’ downtown. It’s that architectural structure that defines the downtown corridor,” said Jeb Feldman, director of economic development at MRCDC.
“It’s also a terrible eyesore and a real source of blight in the downtown. It’s not only unattractive [in its current state], it’s a hazard from both the public safety and environmental standpoints.”
In 2016, the MRCDC applied for the role of conservator of the long-abandoned structure through the state’s Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act. The program allows for non-profit organizations like the CDC to step in as stewards to remedy major concerns on deteriorating residential, commercial and industrial buildings that have been left to ruin by the owner.
In many cases, these types of structures are also saddled with liens and judgments for years of back taxes, unpaid utilities, etc. The former bank building is no different.
Once making the decision to tackle the project and go through the process to receive conservatorship status, the MRCDC began work with agencies and partners to locate funding to see just what was going on inside the 27,000 square foot building.
MRCDC received $100,000 of federal Environmental Protection Agency funding from the Northside Industrial Development Company for environmental assessment work.
Several studies including a hazardous materials assessment were completed. Working closely with contractors the CDC was able to create a work plan – including a costly solution to the removal of the thousands of television sets filled with hazardous substances and what contractors say equates to 53 semi-trailers filled with trash – and budget for this project.
With that completed, a good deal of time has been spent on targeting potential fundraising sources, networking, and then getting applications ready to send.
COST TO SAVE:
- Estimated costs are $2.3 million to remediate (cleanout) and stabilize the building in preparation for redevelopment.
- Of that $2.3 million, remediation costs are budgeted at $1.5 million and will need to be raised whether or not the building remains or is torn down.
Because costs are comparable whether or not the building is saved or razed, MRCDC continues to work toward raising the money to save it.
The structure’s heavy concrete, steel and rebar construction, make the cost for demolition extremely high. That is also why this site is ripe for redevelopment and should be salvaged.
“We have put in fund requests to local, state and federal agencies and continue to work with local partners about how to close the funding gap,” said Feldman.
Call For Action!
We’ve done all the heavy lifting, the funding applications have been submitted and the officials really need to know that you want to see this building saved.
Let your representatives know that you support the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation’s efforts to save 602 Chartiers Ave. Your letter or email could help to unlock the funding needed to turn this once beautiful historic building back to its former glory.
MAIL YOUR OFFICIALS:
Send a letter or email in support of the efforts led by the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation to save the former Bank of McKees Rocks building located at 602 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks:
- Sen. Wayne Fontana, 1039 Brookline Blvd., Suite 2, Pittsburgh, PA 15226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rep. Daniel Deasy, 436 South Main St., Suite 100, Pittsburgh, PA 15220 or email@example.com.
- Rep. Anita Kulik, 1350 Fifth Avenue, Coraopolis, PA 15108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your help!