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New Ken looks to the future

| Sunday, June 17, 2018, 8:47 p.m.
The Metal Working Machinery Co. property at the corner of Constitution Boulevard and Seventh Street in New Kensington as seen as demolition started on May 30.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
The Metal Working Machinery Co. property at the corner of Constitution Boulevard and Seventh Street in New Kensington as seen as demolition started on May 30.

Before New Kensington can rise anew, a lot of the blight from its long-gone glory days has to be cleared.

And that seems to be happening at a faster pace this year than it has in many, many years.

The latest example is the demolition of a massive industrial business at the edge of New Ken's downtown.

At various times, the buildings housed a General Electric plant, then Jones & Laughlin Steel and most recently the Metal Working Machinery Co. Electrical conduit was made there for decades, including for New York's iconic Chrysler Building. Then Metal Working cleaned and refurbished machinery from steel mills and foundries from the 1970s until 2016.

The 3.5-acre industrial property always has been a strange duck, placed as it is with a residential neighborhood and Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church on two sides and the edge of the business district facing the other two.

But now, the buildings have been razed, the land free of environmental hazards and cleared for any use.

Metal Working owner Rufus Duff, 84, is putting the land up for sale.

“Hopefully, someone can make good use of it at the gateway to New Kensington,” he said. We hope he's right.

But it's just another recent occurrence that gives New Kensington hope.

•Probably most important is the city's $8 million acquisition this month of Schreiber Industrial Park, a rusting 70-plus-acre industrial park of 18 buildings that straddles New Ken and Arnold. The city has another $4 million in state money for infrastructure improvements.

The ambitions there are high: attract 400 jobs soon with a goal off wooing advanced manufacturing companies.

• The Corner, Penn State New Kensington's entrepreneur center in a formerly empty storefront at Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street.

•The recent demolitions of a handful of fire-damaged buildings on 10th Street.

• We're not big fans, as it pertains to developing New Kensington, of the Wesley Family Services plans to build a 36-unit apartment and office building in the middle of downtown. The project is great for Wesley and its clients, but we don't think the project will be a boon to New Ken's larger redevelopment plans.

Still, it will be taxable property, and the new construction certainly will be an upgrade aesthetically.

• The city continues to chip away blighted housing, targeting eight more buildings to be cleared by using federal Community Development Block Grant money.

There is no question that leaders of New Kensington, supported by Penn State and others, are making a concerted effort to improve the city.

And it didn't hurt that now-Florida resident Rufus Duff decided it was time to sell.

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