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Companies see promise in former Mayview State Hospital campus

Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Josephine Posti (left), external affairs specialist for Pennsylvania American Water Co., and Scott Hilty, a project manager for the company, inspect the water towers on the former Mayview State Hospital property in South Fayette on Friday, July 19, 2013. Pennsylvania American purchased the towers and plans to integrate them into its water distribution system.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

The former Mayview State Hospital now is a vast field of rubble along the South Fayette and Upper St. Clair border, but a developer and a water company see potential there.

On the hillside above the former hospital's main campus, Pennsylvania American Water Co. is starting a $5 million rehabilitation project on a pair of giant water tanks that once served the complex to add capacity to its system in the south and west suburbs.

On the rest of the campus, the site's new owners are clearing rubble to prepare for possible development of an office park, residential development or some mix of the two. South Fayette Manager Ryan Eggleston said the land is zoned for business development, high-tech industry, offices or recreation.

“I think we have another year, year-and-a-half of demolition,” said Mark Aloe, a co-owner of the property through Aloe Brothers LLC of Duquesne Heights. “We're not in a rush with the current economy.”

Pennsylvania American, meanwhile, will overhaul the two water tanks, which were built in the 1950s. Each is capable of holding 1.5 million gallons of water.

The tanks will be sandblasted, repainted inside and out and fitted with new safety and technology equipment, then connected with a 16-inch water main to the rest of the utility's system to provide extra water for more than 40,000 customers, said Scott Hilty, project manager. Work should be completed by the end of 2014, he said.

Mayview State Hospital was built in 1893 to replace the Pittsburgh's facility for unwed mothers, the poor and people with tuberculosis or mental health issues.

The facility once included a working farm — most of which is now Boyce Mayview Park in Upper St. Clair — and a coal mine that fed the hospital's boiler plant.

Little by little, the state shrank the campus and shuttered buildings. The last patients were moved out in 2008, and Aloe Brothers purchased the site for $505,000 in 2010.

All 39 buildings on the 158-acre campus were cleared of asbestos, and all but a few small houses and outbuildings have been demolished.

Contractors will continue using a giant grinder to crush the concrete, brick and stone into aggregate that can be reused, said Dennis Regan, Aloe Brothers' project manager.

Regan said the company still is weighing what to build on the site once it is cleared.

Through another company, Imperial Land Corp., Mark and David Aloe own several large tracts for industrial and business park development, including the Findlay Industrial Park and the Westport Woods site near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The company imagines some mix of offices and housing at Mayview because the site is a few minutes from Interstate 79 and is surrounded by park lands in Upper St. Clair and South Fayette.

But Dan Adamski, managing director at commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle, said the site's remote location and nearby traffic could be disadvantages.

“The Bridgeville exit (of I-79) is several miles away,” he said, and roads leading to the Mayview property are congested.

“If the ownership is focused on commercial development and not residential, I believe they would be successful with a mix of smaller office buildings, similar to the nearby Summerfield Commons and the office buildings on Boyce Road which are laden with medical users and light industrial/flex buildings,” Adamski said.

South Fayette, meanwhile, is negotiating with Aloe Brothers to purchase the part of the campus west of Mayview Road to expand Fairview Park, said township commission President Deron Gabriel.

“This could be a very good, positive economic development project for the community,” Gabriel said.

Regan said the company is deciding whether to appeal a March decision by the South Fayette Zoning Board to prohibit coal mining or to reapply for a variance to allow it.

Township Solicitor Jonathan Kamin said the window for an appeal is closed, so the developer would have to restart the application process.

Aloe Brothers planned to dig as deep as 100 feet to reach what remains of deposits that once supplied coal to the hospital's boiler plant. Remaining coal would be removed, and the mines would be backfilled to make the site more stable and less prone to acid-tainted water runoff, Regan said.

The proceeds from the sale of coal would allow Aloe to keep building on the site, he said.

For Pennsylvania American, the water tanks purchased last year from Aloe Brothers will provide more storage in areas with less water pressure, so that pipes will be less likely to burst in low-lying areas such as Carnegie, Hilty said. More water kept in storage means fewer customers would lose service during a water main break, he said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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