McKeesport council tackles revitalization
McKeesport is tackling blight this year with two full-scale demolition contracts over the summer and a plan for city crews to raze dilapidated structures in the fall.
Setting aside $107,200 from the city's general fund, council approved a contract with Stash Trucking in a 6-0 vote on Wednesday with council president Richard J. Dellapenna absent.
Stash was the lowest responsible bidder of four companies that answered to project specifications for 19 homes: 3842 DeSota St., 2711 Delaware Ave., 3419 Stockholm Ave., 700 Reynolds Ave., 718 Franklin St., 626 Reed St., 405 Long Run Road, 3602 Woodland St., 2300 Collins St., 3301 Versailles Ave., 301 Archer St., 1809 Westley St., 2500 Banker St., 1706 Grandview Ave., 3023 Versailles Ave., 1405 Evans St., 1034 Pirl St., 2513 Highland Ave. and 2405 Banker St.
“The contract this evening is for the fringes of our city,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “These are the ones that, because they don't have as much blight, tend to be neglected when we do these projects. It's important that we preserve those neighborhoods as well.”
The list includes seven houses in Grandview and some in the Fawcett Plan, the Peterson Plan and Highland Grove.
“As we continue to move forward, it's important to let the public know that nothing would make us happier than to tear down every blighted house,” Cherepko said. “There's not a person here who wouldn't like to see all the blight go tomorrow, but unfortunately it costs money. We are working diligently to move on getting rid of these structures.”
Wednesday's approval marks Stash's second active contract in town this summer, as he works toward taking down 27 blighted structures in the city's newly redefined Cultural and Educational Sector, which is being revitalized through a Community, Infrastructure and Tourism grant intended to repurpose blighted property around the new Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate school.
“With the library, the churches and the Little Theater up there, that's an area that we are focused on revitalizing,” Cherepko said. “That area truly is going to be the starting point for continuing up through the Seventh Ward.”
The $180,500 grant, secured through the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, will be used to tear down blighted homes in the area between Cornell and Union streets from Versailles Avenue back to Jenny Lind Street.
Because the project was approved two years ago, councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery asked for a reminder of which abandoned homes are included in the revitalization project. The list includes three on Bailie Avenue, two on Beaver Street, six on Centennial Street, one on Coursin Street, one on Jenny Lind Street, three on Grant Street, two on Manor Avenue, three on Versailles Avenue and six on Union Avenue.
The project has been lauded by area residents as a noteworthy effort to clean up a viable part of town — something Stash has heard from neighbors while on the job.
“Especially on Versailles Avenue, one gentleman has been there 50 years,” he said. “He was thankful that the house next to him was being torn down. He hopes it helps to turn things around up here.”
Shari Holland, who lives along Carnegie Street, said she would have loved to see some of the homes preserved, but she understands the city is doing its best under difficult circumstances.
“It's really sad to see some of these beautiful homes come down, but on the other hand they've sat vacant for years,” Holland said.
“Taking them down is a sign of things improving. I'm hoping that the end result is a more welcoming community, rather than having people drive into our neighborhood to see abandoned homes.”
In the fall, the city will take on in-house demolition projects of low-risk structures, where neighboring homes cannot be affected in any potential mishaps. Once their summer work slows, crews will put the city's excavator to use and recent training to the test.
With several public works employees now certified to operate the necessary machinery, the city intends to save funds by handling some demolition projects using city crews. Cherepko said city crews won't handle dilapidated structures that neighbor occupied homes, rather, they will knock down solitary structures surrounded by vacant land.
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.