Year In Review: Great Strides In Development, Nutrition, Mental Health Initiatives During 2016

The second of our annual facade renovation projects nears completion.

Taris Vrcek | MRCDC


Board President Anthony Skender Jr. and Vice President Raymond Puskar during our December reorganizational meeting.

During the past year, the staff and board at McKees Rocks Development Corporation have fully embraced plans unveiled in 2015 for a ‘complete community’ strategy.

In short, our goal is to see everyone in the Sto-Rox community be able to thrive in all aspects of their lives and to create places that enable them to do so. This concept is based on four visionary pillars:

  • Economic Development
  • Economic Independence
  • Health and Wellness
  • Education

While you may be most familiar with our work on the economic development portion of that list, MRCDC is committed to helping our partners build capacity around the latter three as we develop a common vision through collaboration. This past year has been a watershed year in our collective progress as a community.

Here are some of our highlights:

Economic Development

  • Purchased roughly 2 acres of prominent downtown property prime for redevelopment
  • Using the State’s Conservatorship legislation, we will be able to tackle the year’s long process of reviving the historic Old Bank Building at 602 Chartiers Avenue15778373_10154297290711795_1246235397_o-freshblue
  • Securing nearly $8 million in a variety of sources to enable the Roxian Theater project to proceed as previously outlined
  • A $100,000 grant enabled us to bring the Urban Land Institute to McKees Rocks with expert panelists from around the country to provide guidance on development of key areas of lower McKees Rocks and the City’s Esplen neighborhood
  • The second of our annual facade renovation projects is nearing completion at the Teamsters building on Chartiers Avenue
  • A partial grant in the amount of  $750,000 for work on phase I of our downtown streetscape has been awarded
  • This past year’s Feastival attracted more than 5,000 to our downtown while adding amenities from the Father Ryan Arts Center and Ohio Valley Hospital‘s Kid Zone
  • Brokered deals to bring Renewal Coffee and Gemini Theater to the Father Ryan Arts Center with the help of Focus On Renewal
  • An application for the Alcosan GROW program for a large-scale downtown stormwater project has been submitted
  • Received shared grant allowing for McKees Rocks and Neville Township to update their zoning ordinances
  • Initiated conversations with Carnegie Mellon University’s Traffic21 about possible intelligent transportation project focused on freight

Economic Independence

Developing a pilot program for individuals and families to transition out of generational poverty by overcoming barriers to housing and other needs. This has already enabled one family to transition from homelessness to homeownership in just the past 12 months. These efforts are integrated with the other partnership efforts mentioned here to create a comprehensive approach to working with our residents such as:

  • Along with partners such as New Sun Rising, Focus On Renewal, and others, developed and implemented three distinct surveys to understand residents personal, economic, and social needs. This will help inform future strategy of us and our partners.
  • Financial literacy and first time home owner programs with Dollar Bank
  • Ongoing Dress For Success events in May and October helping to prepare female residents for job interviews and the start of a new job
  • Preparing to expand Ready to Work programming to allow collaboration with area businesses

Health and Wellness

Working with Focus On Renewal, and more than 20 mental health service providers, we helped develop a  Mental Health partnership serving the Sto-Rox area. Together we are exploring ways to treat families, their needs, and opportunities, in a holistic, or complete, way. This will be embodied with the opening of the Community Resource Center in 2017 and through these other initiatives:

  • Working with the Penn State Extension, Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Center, Ohio Valley Hospital, Just Harvest, and 30 other partners in development and implementation of a Nutrition Strategic Plan for the Sto-Rox community. Nutrition is one of the greatest contributing factors to the community’s largest health crises. These efforts have already succeeded well beyond expectation in the creation of:The Family Table LOGO
    • Healthy Sto-Rox to provide food access projects including Green Grocer and Fresh Corners Mini-Marts
    • Integration with Focus on Renewal in development of the Family Table, which is providing high-quality education for families in preparation of fresh foods and healthy diet options
  • Exploration of bicycle connectivity with City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Friends of the Riverfront
  • Convened a meeting of local partners such as the Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Center with the Allegheny County Health Department to discuss innovative approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic
  • Discussions as to the possible creation of public park space on creekfront property
  • Worked with event committee to produce annual events including an outdoor concert, community flea market, Halloween event and Jingle Bell Rocks
  • Spring and Fall community cleanups
  • Y On The Fly summer programming at Third Street Park through YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh


Sto-Rox Youth Partnership made tremendous strides in 2016 with capacity support from Coro Fellows Cameron Hunter, Reena Naik and Brian Rhindress:

Members of the Sto-Rox Youth Partnership listen to student council members in December.

Sto-Rox Youth Partnership listens to student council members in December.

  • With Focus on Renewal and the Sto-Rox School District, we created a pilot program for 12 students to attend high-quality arts programming at the Father Ryan Arts Center, with some of Pittsburgh’s finest emerging artistic talents
  • With McKees Rocks Area Rotary, we were able to enable 32 sixth graders from Sto-Rox to attend character building programming at Strong Ambitious Women LLC and The First Tee of Pittsburgh Pleasant Ridge as well as student transportation for after school programming
  • Community response during an Hour Of Code program held at Community School West in early December has prompted plans for the creation of a coding club
  • Sto-Rox Student Council members in grades 4-6 shared their thoughts with Youth Partnership on what would best benefit the children in our communities