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Alcoa Labs developer obtains $1.2 million, low-interest state loan

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Steve Kubrick, who is renovating the former Alcoa Research Labs on Freeport Road in New Kensington, discusses his plans for redeveloping the property on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.

New Kensington developer Steve Kubrick had a lot to smile about on Tuesday.

In addition to celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Danielle, he also got the news that his redevelopment of the former Alcoa Research Laboratories was approved for a $1.2 million, low-interest state loan.

“It's a big day for me,” said Kubrick. “I've had a big grin on my face all day.”

Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday announced the Commonwealth Financing Authority had approved $29.2 million in loans statewide through the Business in Our Sites (BOS) Program, which aims to help developers and communities create “shovel-ready” sites to attract new or expanding businesses.

Kubrick says the Alcoa property — which he now calls the A-K Research Park — could provide space for all types of businesses and enterprises, including traditional offices, classrooms for workforce development and high-ceiling manufacturing space.

“The states that have quality infrastructure and shovel-ready sites are best positioned to attract new jobs and development,” Corbett said. “Our partnership with the private sector will prepare nine sites for development and create nearly 6,000 new jobs — and because these are loans, the funding will be paid back to the commonwealth to reinvest in future job-creating projects.”

The loan to Kubrick Enterprises is to be used toward the costs of property acquisition, utility infrastructure and roof improvements, engineering and administration.

Kubrick said he was able to work with former owner Moret Construction to enter into a $950,000 land contract for the Freeport Road property in spring 2012. Moret bought the land in 2003 from Alcoa, which had largely vacated the site in the 1990s when research jobs were moved to the Alcoa Technical Center in Upper Burrell.

Moret essentially holding the role of banker allowed the project to happen, Kubrick said, since banks likely would not have provided a traditional loan or mortgage given the tight economy.

Kubrick said the state loan will allow him to pay his mortgage as well as fund much of the large-scale work needed at the 17-acre site, including fixing the roof, bathrooms, elevator and ventilation system.

“It will free up money for me to put back into the project,” he said. “It'll move this thing forward a lot faster.”

Once major work is done, the three buildings on the site will be what Kubrick calls a “vanilla shell” — basic structures ready for whatever modifications a tenant desires. He said he should be able to turn around space within a few months, depending on the complexity of a tenant's needs.

In approving the loan, the financing authority noted the estimated 300 new jobs Kubrick's redevelopment could create.

Earlier this month, Kubrick said three businesses already had signed leases to occupy portions of the 200,000 square feet of available space. He said many other businesses have contacted him to tour the site and he expects more leases to be signed soon.

Kubrick thanked New Ken-sington Mayor Tom Guzzo, city council and Kim McAfoose, executive director of the city's redevelopment authority, for their efforts in securing the funding.

“Everybody basically had to be on board,” Kubrick said. “It shows they believe in the project.”

“That's really good news,” Guzzo said of the loan.

Guzzo said the city also is assisting Kubrick in the application for $375,000 in grant money from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which funds economic development projects.

Kubrick said he also is seeking a historic designation for the 84-year-old site, which may make more funding available.

“It's a huge project,” Kubrick said.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville, said revitalization of the former Alcoa labs has been a priority of his. Kubrick said Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, whose legislative district will be changed to include New Kensington, also has been supportive.

“If we can get economic activity started in our existing infrastructure, especially in the area of workforce development, I think it can be a huge asset to not just New Kensington but the whole region,” Evankovich said. “The Alcoa site, I think, could potentially help the local economies toward a technology-driven business development subset.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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