McKeesport church donates land for redevelopment
In hope of reviving the grounds of a former church and school, McKeesport's Corpus Christi parish is donating downtown land to the city's redevelopment authority for expansion of the Marina at McKees Point.
Five parcels that were once home to Holy Trinity and St. Martin de Porres parishes are in the process of being transferred to the redevelopment authority with the blessing of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The lots, located along Seventh Avenue between Market Street and Mulberry Alley, are part of a plan to move the marina's boat storage area and make way for improvements near the Palisades.
“This particular area is a great area for potential development,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “You're a block from the marina. You're a block from the Palisades. For them to gain access to five lots through the redevelopment authority, it could be a tremendous benefit for development.”
The lots have been available for several years.
When the diocese merged three local parishes — St. Mary Czestochowa, St. Pius V and St. Martin de Porres — to form Corpus Christi in 2010, the new, larger entity became responsible for the grounds, rectories and schools that were part of the smaller churches.
St. Martin de Porres was formed in the 1980s, when McKeesport's population declined after the steel industry's collapse, as the result of merging Holy Trinity, St. Peter and Sacred Heart churches.
Holy Trinity became the parish's official home in 2007, when the others were closed. In 2011, that church and school were razed, and Corpus Christi's parish council and financial committee became responsible for repurposing the land.
Late in the summer of 2013, the Rev. Stephen Kresak, who led the parish at that time, entered talks with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport through parishioner and finance committee member Harry Walsh, the city's elected controller.
Kresak said the parish had received several offers from private investors that were considering plans that complemented happenings at the Marina and McKees Point as well as the Palisades event center.
“We wouldn't donate it to a private investor, because we couldn't guarantee that their endeavor would benefit the community,” Kresak said. “There was a good possibility, even at that time, of the parish councils donating this property for the benefit of the city at large.”
Once the parish and city agreed on their best course of action, Corpus Christi officials forwarded their request to Pittsburgh.
“We sent it to the diocese and prayed for the best,” Kresak recalled.
Walsh reported to the city's administration and council last week that the donation is nearly official, save the title transfers for which the redevelopment authority will foot the bill.
Without Kresak's continued support of the project, even with his recent move to serve parishes in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, it would not have come to fruition, officials said. He thanked the parish's new pastor, the Rev. Michael J. Maranowski, for being supportive of the plan.
“I think the intent is to vacate (Mulberry) and eventually build a ramp from where they store the boats now into the second floor of the Palisades,” Walsh said.
City councilman Dan Carr, who chairs the McKees Point Commission, confirmed that there are plans for expansion and opportunities for development.
“What we have there is a very nice facility,” Cherepko said. “We're going to continue to enhance that, to market that and to offer events. The marina and the Palisades are true destination points for McKeesporters and people from outside our city.”
Stating that the Catholic church and the city of McKeesport always have maintained a good relationship, he said the gesture of a valuable donation seemed natural.
“The people who made that land possible all lived, worked and worshiped in McKeesport,” Kresak said. “This was our way of giving back. It's something that can be used by everyone for the benefit of the entire community.”
Corpus Christi owns two additional vacant lots in the area of Seventh Avenue. While they are not for sale at this time, city officials said they could have future interest in the 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.