Wolf Administration Announces $2.3 Million to Address Blight in McKees Rocks

Gov. Tom Wolf has announced a $2.3 million investment to support blight remediation in McKees Rocks.

The announcement was made Aug. 20, when Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Dennis Davin joined Sen. Wayne Fontana, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, McKees Rocks Mayor Jack Muhr, McKees Rocks Council President Archie Brinza, McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation Executive Director Taris Vrcek, and others gathered for a press conference in McKees Rocks.

“Since taking office, I’ve repeatedly stressed the need to strategically invest in our communities to allow them to tackle blight and bring unused or abandoned spaces back into productive use,” said Gov. Wolf. “McKees Rocks is a great example of the positive outcomes that can be achieved by supporting communities in an intentional and meaningful way, which improves the quality of life for residents, attracts new businesses, and creates new opportunities for the region.”

In addition to $1 million in Industrial Sites Reuse Program (ISRP) funding and $1 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funding announced today, McKees Rocks was approved for $300,000 in Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) funding to address blight.

“Blight is a big issue in communities throughout the commonwealth. This funding will serve as a catalyst to combat blighted housing and create new affordable home ownership opportunities for residents; it also allows the community to continue improvements along Chartiers Avenue at the bank building,” said Sec. Davin. “This $2.3 million investment is a continuation of the support the Wolf administration has provided since the governor took office in 2015, and I want to thank and applaud our local partners for all of their efforts to put this funding to good use in their community.”

After the Aug. 20 press conference, MRCDC Executive Director Taris Vrcek (right) thanks Sen. Wayne Fontana (left) for his support as Council President Archie Brinza looks on.

The McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC) was approved for $1 million in ISRP grant funding to remediate the former Bank of McKees Rocks site located at 602 Chartiers Ave. The site consists of one building totaling 27,000 square feet over four floors and a basement. The overwhelming concern at the property is the large volume of waste in the building primarily comprised of old and decomposed Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) television sets. The funds will be used for the removal and disposal of old television sets and asbestos abatement.

“I’ve always been a proud advocate for McKees Rocks and have always been supportive of their efforts to secure state funding to advance this great neighborhood,” said Sen. Fontana. “There has been significant investment made in recent years to remake industrial sites, revamp the business district and grow housing stock and I look forward to continue supporting these initiatives.” 

In December 2020, McKees Rocks was approved for $1 million in RACP funding as part of Phase I of a community-wide blight property rehabilitation plan. More than 50 vacant properties have been identified that need remediation. After further research which included physical visits to each home, the borough has narrowed the list of properties down to 10 initial homes as the priorities for Phase I of this project which include interior demolition and stabilization of the properties.

Additionally, at the May 25, 2021 CFA Board meeting, the borough was approved for $300,000 in Blight Remediation Program funding to acquire and rehabilitate a property, and the borough plans to purchase up to 10 properties for rehabilitation and ultimate resale as affordable housing.  The proposed remediation project is in line with an existing blight remediation plan. The funds will be used for acquisition, renovation, engineering, and infrastructure costs.

The former bank building at 602 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks.
602 Chartiers Ave. in McKees Rocks is the focus of a $1 million ISRP grant awarded to MRCDC.

“For the first time in six decades, Allegheny County is growing. We have been successful because there are opportunities here. We offer a great quality of life, affordability and are a welcoming community,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Now is the time to build on that momentum, and this investment in McKees Rocks allows the borough and the county to do exactly that as we work collectively to showcase the community and all of the opportunity that exists within it. Thank you to Governor Wolf, Secretary Davin and Senator Fontana for their continued commitment to expanding opportunities and growing wealth in each municipality.”

“These are strategic investments that will enable a transformative impact in our community by improving public safety, downtown and neighborhood vibrancy, and providing pathways into homeownership for our residents,” said Taris A. Vrcek, Executive Director, McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation.  “We are deeply grateful to the elected officials and PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development for working hand in hand with us over the many years of hard work and diligence it’s taken to get us here. It’s now incumbent upon us as a community to come together and leverage this opportunity so that the community can derive the maximum benefit from these hard earned dollars.” 

“We’re moving forward in the community,” said Mayor John “Jack” Muhr, who noted that several new businesses have opened in McKees Rocks recently. “We’re very appreciative of all of the hard work that went into obtaining these grants.”

Aug. 20, 2021 Press Conference/Funding Announcement