Glassport deemed open to 'economic development'
Though the community open house didn't have an official theme, the message in Glassport on Thursday was clear: the borough is open for economic development.
Andrew Schwartz from Environmental Planning & Design LLC told community leaders and potential business and property developers and others attending the event that several areas in the borough could be developed or repurposed for residential, commercial and industrial uses.
Schwartz's company recently conducted, by way of a $30,000 state grant, a study of the borough's economic potential. His presentation included information about potential growth locations around town and suggested uses for various properties.
The study analyzed growth potential in the borough's main business district along Monongahela Avenue. It looked at the potential for development related to the Clairton Connector bike trail and at new uses for properties which included the old Glassport Elementary School and the former community swimming pool.
Schwartz said the borough has qualities that are desirable to developers and businesses including a relatively stable population base and a high traffic business district.
Though it can't be considered an affluent community with an average household income that's just under $40,000, Schwartz said residents are willing to spend their money on shopping, dining and consumer goods.
There are not a lot of shopping opportunities in the business district, Schwartz noted, but added that suggests the borough has adapted to market trends that show most people shop at big box retailers or online.
Along Monongahela Avenue, he noted, there is only a 25 percent vacancy rate for storefronts, which compares favorably to other neighboring communities that have vacancy rates of around 40 percent.
Schwartz gave the borough's housing stock a positive mark, as well.
“There aren't really blighted areas in the community,” he said.
Regarding the bike trail — which is being rerouted from a strip along Allegheny Avenue to Monongahela Avenue — Schwartz said the borough needs to start thinking of itself as a trail town.
“The trail (in Glassport) needs some tender love and care and a personality,” Schwartz said. “You have an amenity that you really want to take advantage of.”
Discussed as well were uses for the Patterson property above the borough and spurring industrial development along a flat parcel of land along Allegheny Avenue between Third and Fifth streets.
John D'Angelo of Glassport Development Corp. said, “This could be the turnaround for the borough we've been looking for.” The development corporation worked with Schwartz's firm on the study and sponsored the open house.
D'Angelo said the event was one of a number of recommendations to come out of the study report that his group is committed to acting on.
One of the development ideas suggested by Environmental Planning & Design is converting the old Glassport school into 50 apartments and building up to 16 townhouses on the surrounding campus.
Cassandra Collinge of the Allegheny County Economic Development housing division asked who such housing might benefit.
“I'm trying to get a sense of who lives (in Glassport) and who they're trying to attract,” she said. Schwartz said senior citizens probably would be the intended tenants for such a development.
Brent Lazar of a.m. Rodriguez Associates took notes during a tour of the properties that took place after the opening discussion. During a stop at the school, Lazar said his company has converted a number of old schools for residential use including the soon to open Lofts of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh.
Lazar said he was interested in seeing the school and generally what Glassport has to offer, noting it was his first visit to the community.
Schwartz noted the old swimming pool site could support the development of 28 townhouses or 10 single family units.
D'Angelo said he hopes to bring more outside developers into the borough in the near future. Next week, he said, he has a tour of the Patterson property scheduled for a Cleveland developer.
Dom Palmieri of Irwin said he attended the open house because he is thinking about starting a business that recycles plastic into synthetic crude oil. Palmieri said he is looking at industrial parts of the borough.
John Palyo of Twin Rivers Council of Governments told prospective developers that funding is available through the Tri-COG Collaborative for developers interested in having environmental assessments performed on brownfield sites.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.