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State Funds Will Aid Roundhouse’s Clean-Up

RIDC hopes to find tenant soon for facility on old U.S. Steel site

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 23, 2019
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac photo)

The owner of the old McKeesport Connecting Railroad roundhouse in the city’s industrial park will use a state grant to remove environmental hazards and prepare the building for potential new tenants.

Regional Industrial Development Corp. has received $671,200 to perform remediation at the roundhouse; the old U.S. Steel National Works guardhouse on Locust Street; and the open hearth building at the old U.S. Steel Duquesne Works.

The grant, announced Wednesday by state Rep. Austin Davis, is from the state Industrial Sites Reuse Program, which helps fund the cleanup of environmental contamination at industrial sites that are going to be used for housing, businesses or recreation areas.

“Today’s announcement is a positive step in the efforts to clean up and rehabilitate our industrial sites as well as revitalize our community,” Davis said. “The funding awarded today will not only positively affect the environment, but it also will make our district a cleaner and healthier place to live and visit.”

Tim White, senior vice president of development at RIDC, said that with the city working to realign the bike trail along the Monongahela River waterfront, the roundhouse is in a prime location for reuse.

“What we’re trying to do is chip away and make it more realistic for some group to come in and fully redevelop it,” White said. “Hopefully with all of the other sfuff going on at that site, we can recruit someone to put some jobs into the building.”

American Textile Corp. recently took over one of the buildings at the McKeesport RIDC industrial park, and River Materials is redeveloping about 18 acres under the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.

PurePenn, a medical marijuana producer, also has expanded its facility next to the railroad roundhouse.

“Most of that side of the park is spoken for now with a good bit of activity,” White said. “We’re hoping we can find someone else who wants to be part of that activity.”

(Tube City Almanac photo)

In 2018, the McKeesport Preservation Society and the Steel City chapter of the Railroad & Locomotive Historical Society announced plans to develop a railroad history museum at the roundhouse, which once serviced the locomotives that worked inside the U.S. Steel National Works.

The facility closed in the early 1980s.

“We’ve had some loose interest,” White said. “It’s a big project for someone to take on. No matter what goes in there, we need to get the building remediated.”

In the past, RIDC has rejected proposals for commercial or retail operations on the former mill site, but White said the non-profit agency would be open to some sort of public-facing use for the roundhouse.

(Tube City Almanac photo)

“It’s a big building,” White said. “From a vision standpoint, it’s pretty big for one small commercial operation.

The remediation “takes us a step closer to finding and creating a spot where, if someone could do the improvements to move in, if we could find an operator who could do a sort of destination spot there — we could incorporate some kind of retail or commercial operation in the city,” possibly to serve customers on the bike trail, he said.

“Maybe we find a tech company that wants to do light assembly,” White said. “We’re keeping the door open to see what develops.”

RIDC is also pursuing a separate grant to evaluate the structural stability of the roundhouse, he said.

Artists have worked in the building and some other small activities have been held there, White said, but “it’s at the state that it can’t even support that without making it safe.”

RIDC has estimated that $637,500 of the state grant will be used to remove asbestos and remove or encapsulate lead paint throughout the facility. Work is expected to begin in 2020, White said.

The remaining $33,700 will be used to remediate lead-based paint and encapsulate surfaces in the guard house at the McKeesport site and in the open hearth building at the Duquesne site.

“Those are two little buildings we’re trying to clean up and get some small companies into,” White said. The guard house is at the corner of Locust Street and the CSX railroad tracks, while the open hearth building in Duquesne is near the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at jtogyer@gmail.com.

Originally published October 23, 2019.

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