(Editor’s Note: The writer has a conflict of interest. See editor’s note at the end of this story.)
The long-rumored closing of the Downtown branch of First Commonwealth Bank is apparently official.
The location at 225 Fifth Ave. is one of 29 offices that the Indiana County-based bank intends to close, Jonathan Longwill, vice president and communications specialist at First Commonwealth, told Tube City Almanac on Friday.
Official notification will be sent to government regulators in early to mid-September, and the McKeesport branch is expected to close for business on Dec. 31, he said.
The closure will leave only two banks with branches in Downtown McKeesport. PNC has an office at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Huey Street, and Dollar Bank has an office in the former Midtown Plaza shops.
Huntington Bank closed its office at 1415 Fifth Ave., near UPMC McKeesport hospital, in 2019.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development met Wednesday with McKeesport leaders. Shown at city hall are A.J. Tedesco, McKeesport community development director; state Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport; Mike Horvath, HUD Pittsburgh field office director; Jane Miller, HUD deputy regional administrator; Mayor Michael Cherepko; and Joseph DeFelice, HUD Region III administrator. (Almanac photo)
McKeesport should take advantage of the federal Financial Opportunity Zone program to encourage investment in commercial properties and affordable housing in the city.
That was the pitch made Wednesday to city officials by Joseph J. DeFelice, regional administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for five mid-Atlantic states and Washington, D.C.
DeFelice visited the McKeesport Housing Authority’s Crawford Village as well as McKeesport City Hall during a stop Wednesday morning. DeFelice said he has been criss-crossing Pennsylvania to visit with housing agencies and local governments.
“A lot of people come up with really great ideas sitting around offices, but they don’t know what’s going on at the ground level,” he said. “I want ideas to filter up from places like McKeesport and McKees Rocks. I think that’s a better way to do things.”
The district will offer in-person learning five days a week, breaking the students into two groups by alphabet or by family.
“Children will come to school for approximately 3 to 3.5 hours, either in the morning or afternoon, and receive all the instruction necessary for the day,” Holtzman said. “Secondary students will run through their entire schedule, whether it's an eight- or nine-period day for a shortened period of time.”
Musicians and colorguard from McKeesport Area High School rehearse the opening movement of “An Ancient Summoning.” (Bonnijean Cooney Adams photo)
McKeesport Area High School Marching Band students are preparing for a 2020 show full of classic struggles between darkness and light in “An Ancient Summoning.”
“We picked the theme to be vastly different than last year,” band director Drew DeCarlo said.
While the 2019 theme depicted a day in a steel mill, a sneak peek revealed through the band’s Facebook page revealed “an era before time.”
Based on Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” with additional original music by composer and arranger Randall D. Standridge, the show is divided into four movements, reflected in marching and interpretive motions.
The first is “The Summons,” followed by “The Darkness,” “The Light,” and “The Conflict.”
Historian Nicholas Boros came from Cleveland to Western Pennsylvania this summer to digitize some old Hungarian Catholic newspapers written by the Rev. Kalman Kovats, the founder of the church formerly known as St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church.
Located on Beacon Avenue in McKeesport, St. Stephen’s is scheduled to be demolished.
Boros decided on a whim to visit the church to take some pictures and has begun a movement to preserve its cornerstone.
“I’ve always had a great love of history,” said Boros. “I studied comparative religion in university. That really helped develop my passion for historical research on immigrant religious communities.”
Workers seal the roof on the Executive Building, Downtown, in June. New owner Jonathan Stark says the building is structurally sound and is hoping to attract new tenants. (Submitted photo via Facebook)
McKeesport’s Executive Building may not look like much these days, but with a little work and vision, new owner Jonathan Stark hopes to breathe some new life into the old building and bring commerce back to the Downtown area.
Right now, construction fence surrounds the main entrance of the building at 332 Fifth Ave. and adds to the feeling of abandonment. The Executive Building once housed Dollar Bank, a child-care facility, doctors’ offices, hair and nail salons and many other businesses.
Dr. Deborah Birx, shown in a 2018 file photo, warned Pittsburgh and 10 other cities on Wednesday that they must be more aggressive in stopping the spread of COVID-19. But Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials said they were not invited to participate in the nationwide phone call. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services photo)
Pittsburgh is one of 11 cities being told by federal authorities to take more “aggressive” steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In a private phone call Wednesday to state and local leaders, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned that 11 major cities are seeing increases in the percentage of tests coming back positive.
Birx told hundreds of emergency managers and other state and local leaders that they should act quickly to stem the outbreaks.
Pittsburgh does not have its own health department. But Amie M. Downs, Allegheny County spokeswoman, told Tube City Almanac on Wednesday night that neither Dr. Debra Bogen, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, nor anyone else from the county administration “was on any such call or has received any such communication.”
Timothy McNulty, spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, told the Almanac via email, “no one from (Pittsburgh) was on this call.”
Birx’s call was not made public, but a recording was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, which reported details in an exclusive story on Wednesday.
(McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center, via Facebook)
McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center is paying tribute to the city’s annual International Village with a special exhibit as well as a cooking lesson.
The three-day ethnic food and music festival, which has been held every year since 1960, was scheduled to be held in August. It has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“International Village is a long standing staple in our community,” said Teresa Trich, the museum’s community outreach director. “We at the Heritage Center have been proud to be involved with this yearly event. This year, with the cancellation of International Village, we have a new exhibit that will transport you to the Old World.”
Participants in the Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club stand outside the now-closed Third Street location. Programming is moving to the nearby Duquesne Education Center. (Submitted photo via change.org)
Some residents are upset over a new partnership between the Duquesne City School District and the Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club that would see programs moving to the Duquesne Education Center.
The petition claims the move will negatively impact out-of-school programming for Duquesne children. It also alleges the change will increase costs for families and reduce the number of children participating in activities provided by the Duquesne-West Mifflin Boys & Girls Club.
“If the 3rd Street DWM Boys & Girls Club closes, there will not be free in-person programming this summer,” according to the petition. “The partnership with the Duquesne City School will only be offering summer online programming for Duquesne students who are in kindergarten through second grade.”
ACTION-Housing constructed this new home in 2019 at the corner of Bailie and Cornell avenues. The agency is partnering with the city to build another, similar home nearby. (Tube City Almanac file photo)
McKeesport officials have shifted the city’s housing rehabilitation funds to two different agencies in hopes of breathing new life into projects that had stagnated.
City council this month voted to transfer more than $628,000 in federal Home Investment Partnerships Program grant money from the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 to Allegheny County in exchange for the same amount of money from the county’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The city’s vision for its residential neighborhoods is about “more than just demolition,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. McKeesport officials also want to see new housing constructed and existing homes preserved, he said.