ShareThis Page
News

County sees potential of vacant sites

Tony LaRussa
| Thursday, May 11, 2006

Half a million and legal muscle from Allegheny County could provide the boost Penn Hills needs to finally develop the municipality's largest industrial property.

"When I look at this site, I see something that is definitely doable," County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said recently as he toured the 200-acre former Atlas Cement plant site and the adjacent 300-acre former Gascola slag dump in the municipality's Thompson's Run corridor.

"The old LTV Steel site in the city and the Carrie Furnace site (in Swissvale, Braddock and Rankin) looked just like this not too long ago," Onorato said as he surveyed the vast collection of crumbling buildings and piles of rubble -- much of it dumped illegally -- that litter the site.

The former LTV plant along Second Avenue was redeveloped into the Pittsburgh Technology Center. Work is under way to prepare the 137-acre Carrie Furnace site for development into housing, office space, light industrial and a proposed steel heritage center.

The 300-acre slag dump property, which is owned by U.S. Steel Corp., is the eighth largest brownfield in the county. The 200-acre cement plant site, most of which is owned by MM&G Associates Inc. of Jefferson City, Tenn., is the county's 10th largest brownfield site.

Onorato said he also has applied to the state for $5 million in economic development funds to help pay for demolition, cleanup and preparation of the site for development.

"Obviously, developing something like (the Thompson Run site) will take a ton of money, but this is exactly the kind of thing the county wants to be involved in," Onorato said.

Vacant for more than two decades, Penn Hills officials believe the former industrial site is ripe for development because it is near a proposed ramp for the $4.3 billion Mon-Fayette Expressway, which is in the design stage.

The slag dump also has been cited as the possible location for a station for the high speed magnetic levitation train pilot program that is being developed. The maglev could run from the Pittsburgh International Airport to Greensburg.

One of the stumbling blocks to preparing the cement plant site for development has been gaining ownership of the property from MM&G.

Years of legal haggling between the municipality, the Penn Hills School District and the company could come to an end next month, said state Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills.

"It's in bankruptcy and (MM&G) has to move (on the property) by mid-June," he said. "The school district is ready to foreclose on it. June is D-Day. (MM&G) has to either come up with the (delinquent tax) money or it goes to sheriff's sale."

MM&G owes the school district more than $200,000 in delinquent property taxes, and more than $80,000 in back taxes are owed to the municipality and the county.

A decision in bankruptcy court also could mark the beginning of stiff fines on the property from the municipality.

"We're waiting to see what happens in court," said Howard Davidson, Penn Hills planning director. "If no effort is made to clean up the property, I'll start issuing fines for having deteriorated and dangerous buildings and piles of rubble on the site.

The fines, Davidson said, could accrue at the rate of several thousand dollars a day.

DeLuca characterized the condition of the property as "disgraceful."

"If any of us kept our properties like this, we'd be in jail," he said.

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.

click me