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Old Railroad Roundhouse Getting New Owner

Last major parcel in city’s RIDC industrial park is under agreement

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
April 18, 2023
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

(Tube City Almanac photo)

The last unused building in McKeesport’s industrial park is getting a new owner.

McKeesport City Council has approved a request from W&E Investments LLC to use the former McKeesport Connecting Railroad roundhouse for temporary storage of oil and lubricants used by U.S. Steel plants in the area.

The roundhouse, built in 1906, was used by the railroad for repair of locomotives and other equipment until 1987.

W&E Investments is a project of Cliff Wise, chair of River Materials Inc., which operates a barge and railcar loading facility under the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge.

“It is literally the only building not bought or occupied at this point” in the industrial park, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko says. “We’re going to allow (Wise) to use it for storage for now” while additional plans are developed.

Wise says the warehouse operation at the roundhouse is likely to be temporary until his company launches several businesses inside the structure, including an oil recycling operation, a light manufacturing company and, possibly, a craft distillery.

The exterior of the historic structure will be preserved to every extent possible, Wise says.

“We are developing plans and we want to keep it in the traditional look of the roundhouse,” he says. “It’s part of the charisma of the whole area.”

River Materials is a successor to the former Glassport Intermodal Center. In 2021, the company purchased almost 10 acres under the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge from Regional Industrial Development Corp. at a cost of $595,200.

“Cliff and his team have been great partners in driving economic development activity in the Mon Valley,” says Tim White, senior vice president of business development for RIDC. “He continues to invest in McKeesport.”

Terms of the sale have not yet been disclosed, but the property is under sales agreement, White says.

The RIDC industrial park occupies land previously used by U.S. Steel’s National Works, at one time the largest pipe-making mill in the United States and the origin of McKeesport’s nickname, “the Tube City.”

The McKeesport Connecting Railroad was a U.S. Steel subsidiary that operated the trains and tracks that connected the steel mill to the Pennsylvania, Baltimore & Ohio, Union and other local railroads.

After the closure of U.S. Steel in McKeesport operations in 1987, the McKeesport Connecting Railroad continued to serve the former electric-resistance weld mill, now owned by Dura-Bond, until 2013, when it was merged into the Union Railroad.

There have been previous plans to preserve the railroad as a museum structure, but none were successful.

At one point many years ago, Wise says, the roundhouse’s ceiling was covered with a type of concrete material that has now become badly damaged. That will have to be removed before renovations can begin, he says.

Otherwise, “the building seems salvagable,” Wise says. The roundhouse comes with 3.8 acres of land, which will be adaptable to a variety of supporting uses, he says.

RIDC is very supportive of the redevelopment of the roundhouse, White says. “We think it can be a great amenity to the industrial park and the (Great Allegheny Passage) trail,” he says.

There are still vacant buildings at the RIDC park, but they are privately owned. In 2021, Trulieve, a Canadian medical marijuana company that purchased McKeesport-based PurePenn, bought three buildings and 37 acres of property from RIDC for $10 million for future expansion.

Following nationwide contraction in the medical cannabis industry, Trulieve has laid off several employees at its McKeesport facility and is currently marketing some of the property for lease.

A listing posted March 30 on the real estate website LoopNet offers one of the buildings, at 451 Industry Road, for lease through Situs Properties Inc. in Montgomery County. The property, which includes 225,600 square feet and 7.87 acres, is assessed by Allegheny County at $2.3 million.

The building at left, purchased by Trulieve in 2021, is currently available for lease. (Tube City Almanac file photo)

Originally published April 18, 2023.

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