Build it, and people will come --- at least that's the hope of Sam Juliano, vice president of the North Versailles Twp. commissioners. He wants to see about 90 acres of undeveloped land in the township's Green Valley section turned into a multi-purpose park.
At their October meeting, commissioners voted to enter into an agreement with TARQUINCoRE, LLC of Pittsburgh, which represents the property's owners, to accept the donation of nearly 90 acres of land currently owned by a real estate trust.
Commissioners George Beswick and Daryl Mitchell were absent. The land is located off of Maryland Avenue.
According to Juliano, the issue has been under discussion for several months. ”Now it's back on the table,” he said. ”Our commissioners did an assessment of this generous offer and determined there is an interest in acquiring ownership of five parcels.”
The Sullivan trust, managed by PNC, owns several undeveloped parcels of real estate in the township, Juliano said.
An Oct. 12 email sent to township code enforcement officer Allen Wagner by TARQUINCoRE principal Lynn R. DeLorenzo requested a closing date of Dec. 31, adding that the real estate taxes have been paid through 2017. The township will be responsible for 2018 taxes and the cost to acquire and close on the parcels.
Juliano said the township will need time to conduct due diligence, including a title search and a 90-day period to inspect the property.
"The first step is a donation agreement that is going to lock them into donating those properties to the township,” he said.
Juliano is excited about the possibilities. “It’s been a big dream since I’ve been a commissioner," he said. "What I’m after is a ballpark, pavilions and a spray park --- like what they have in Monroeville. It’s going to be nice, and it's something I’ve been working on for such a long time.”
He also thinks a large community park would help attract new housing development to the township. “From what I understand, there aren't enough houses" in the Pittsburgh area, Juliano said. "Maybe because we're close to Pittsburgh, it will be like 'Field of Dreams' --- build it and they’ll come.”
But Juliano, who represents Ward 4, where the properties are located, admitted that some people are less enthusiastic. One firefighter, he said, asked him "What are are we going to get out of it?"
"I was floored," Juliano said. "It’s frustrating.”
Before the park idea can move forward, North Versailles are reaching out to state and county officials for grant funding, he said. He pointed out that McKeesport was recently awarded a $2.9 million state grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Transportation Fund for improvements to the existing Steel Valley trail and upgrades to the Lysle Boulevard parking garage.
“I’ve reached out to our senators and told them, 'This is your time to do something for us,'" Juliano said. "McKeesport just got $3 million, so I’m hoping to get that kind of money.”
Richard Finch Jr. is a freelance writer who is covering McKeesport Area schools and North Versailles Twp. for Tube City Almanac. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published October 21, 2018.