Work progresses at former McKeesport YMCA
With the renovation of its McKeesport Downtown Housing facility, Action Housing Inc. may be creating the largest passive house in the United States.
Since being awarded $968,221 in tax credits through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency last April and a $10.1 million tax credit investment by PNC later in 2012, Action Housing is in the process of improving its 84 residential units in the former YMCA facility at 513 Sinclair St.
The 64,974-square-foot building includes 45 rental rooms, 14 transitional Bridge Housing units and 25 shelter rooms. In addition to larger rooms with more privacy, Action Housing is improving the facility's ecological footprint by increasing energy efficiency through foam insulation, specialized windows and a geothermal heating and cooling system.
“We've been told this will be the first multi-family passive house of its size in the country,” said James DeGrazia, a special projects consultant with Action Housing. “The tightness of this building will make it very efficient to operate and that's the key to making it work.”
With designs by the Thoughtful Balance architectural firm, Action Housing hopes to cut its utility bills in half through improved efficiency.
REPAL construction began demolition and asbestos abatement in November 2012. Construction of new units is under way, with an expected completion date set for December.
From Sixth Avenue, passersby can see crews digging wells for the geothermal system. From Fifth Avenue and Sinclair Street, crews are seen only when loading and unloading materials.
“There's not much going on outside the building,” McKeesport Downtown Housing property manager Anne Messner said. “Most of the stuff is going on inside.”
Messner said it's a complicated process to take on such a massive construction project in an occupied building, but crews couldn't displace the residents.
In May, residents will move from their current units to the new section before the job moves into its second phase.
The Bridge Housing rooms will be equipped with kitchens and bathrooms. The others will share bathrooms and have microwaves in the rooms. There will be a common lounge, kitchen and other rooms.
With the YMCA building serving as housing since its inception in 1922, it has been a community resource for individuals who need low-income or transitional housing opportunities. The shelter and Bridge Housing programs moved there in the 1980s.
Before the YMCA left its Sinclair Street facility in 2010, Allegheny County Department of Human Services approached Action Housing about managing the units already on site to maintain fair housing opportunities in the downtown area.
DeGrazia said Action Housing tries to lead residents to programs that can help them set attainable goals.“We've had people go from shelter to Bridge and then become residents,” DeGrazia said. “Some will become employees and work here. Others will move on from that and get a better job. We've had successes with motivated people.”
Devon Hester, 38, successfully completed the Bridge Housing program and now is employed with McKeesport Downtown Housing.
“It was a blessing for me,” Hester said. “You have to utilize the services for your benefit. If you don't go through the programs and learn something, you will see yourself in the same situation that got you there.”
Nicholas Reese, 18, who is living in the shelter at McKeesport Downtown Housing, said he thinks building improvements will allow Action Housing to help more people improve their lives in a comfortable setting. He hopes to stay in the shelter while finding education opportunities through Job Corps.
“It's helping me get up on my feet,” he said. “Everyone in here is really kind. This is the closest I've felt to feeling like I've had a family in a long time.”
Messner said the role of property manager at McKeesport Downtown Housing is more than the traditional meaning of that title.
Like a den mother, she makes sure residents have access to community food pantries, job training programs and health care resources.
“The plan is in the works to have many social services here so that we don't have to send people out,” Messner said, noting talks are beginning now but offices wouldn't open until construction is complete.
“We're trying to drive more consistent services here for our residents to have immediate access,” DeGrazia said.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Brass plaque stolen from McKeesport veterans memorial
- McKeesport nonprofit, Youth Works ensure Allied Health students can continue training
- McKeesport man arrested in pair of armed robberies
- Businessman responds to Brewster shale tax proposal
- McKeesport man sentenced to house arrest in armed robbery
- Family, friends of murder victims rally in Duquesne to stop violence
- Elizabeth Township holds line on taxes
- Teen who accused Clairton police of brutality pleads guilty to lesser charges
- McKeesport traffic stops lead to 3 heroin arrests
- Greensburg pit bull advocacy group plans fundraiser in Homestead
- Clairton students reference positive ‘Frozen’-themed lessons