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City Takes Ownership of Former Daily News Building

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 28, 2017
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

The plywood is coming off of the windows as soon as possible, McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko promises.

After that, city officials will begin the job of cleaning up the former headquarters of the McKeesport Daily News and readying it for tenants. "Then we start lining up what we want to do," Cherepko said Tuesday. "We don't want to close any windows of opportunity."

Ownership of the building was transferred Tuesday from the parent company of the Tribune-Review to the city's Redevelopment Authority. The possible sale of the building by Trib Total Media to the city was first reported Nov. 1.

The building was donated, said state Sen. Jim Brewster, who has been negotiating with the Tribune-Review for months.

"I think it's wonderful on their part," Brewster said Tuesday night. "We're excited, and very thankful to Trib Total Media and (the company's CEO) Jennifer Bertetto for giving this back to the city."

A formal ribbon-cutting has not yet been scheduled.

The building at the corner of Lysle Boulevard and Walnut Street has been vacant since the Tribune-Review's parent company, which purchased the Daily News in 2007, closed the paper on Dec. 31, 2015.

Hours after the News' presses rolled for the last time, giant sheets of plywood were nailed over the picture windows. The plywood has been a source of irritation to city residents and business owners.

"We're going to get that plywood off, and get those chimes turned back on," Brewster said about the electrically operated carillon that struck the hours and played hymns and patriotic melodies from the newspaper's roof.

Although the electric clock on the corner of the building has remained on since the paper closed, the chimes were silenced.

"Some things will get done more quickly than others," he said. "I think it's going to be a work in progress."

McKeesport officials envision the 12,000-square-foot, three-story building becoming an incubator for digital media and technology businesses.

Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation is considering space in the building for use as a training center for student journalists, and city officials have asked Tube City Community Media Inc., operators of Tube City Almanac and Internet radio station WMCK.FM; as well as the Monessen-based Mon Valley Independent newspaper to consider renting space as well.

The city is eying the former classified advertising department and reception area --- which is graced by a giant, neon-lighted map of the United States --- as the home of a possible coffee shop and area for flexible meeting space.

A story posted on the Tribune-Review's website on Tuesday indicated that the newspaper may also be looking to locate some of its editorial and advertising personnel back in the building to service its website and the daily Greensburg Tribune-Review as well as its weekly newspapers, which include the Norwin Star, Penn-Trafford Star and Monroeville Times-Express.

But any technology or media company that is looking for a space to launch a business would be considered as a tenant in the building, Cherepko said. They just need to call his office.

"We'd be interested, obviously, in talking to any kind of tenants," Cherepko said. "I think the building is big enough for anyone who would fit the mold."

One potential hitch for marketing the building, at least at first, may be the lack of nearby parking.

There are only five spaces along Walnut Street in front of the building, and its other sides are hemmed in by Lysle Boulevard, the CSX Railroad tracks and the closed Lysle Boulevard parking garage.

But, Cherepko and Brewster said, the city is applying for a grant from the state's Multimodal Transportation Fund to renovate the lower floors of the parking garage to serve both the Daily News and the Great Allegheny Passage hiking-biking trail, which runs along Fourth Avenue between the News building and the railroad tracks.

The garage is "structurally sound, but it needs some TLC," Cherepko said.

Having the parking garage open and available would make the Daily News Building much more marketable, Brewster said.

"We think that's the most beneficial idea in the long term," he said. "If you want to be able to market a building like the Daily News, people need to be able to park nearby and walk to the building safely."

Brewster and Cherepko also anticipate that part of the building will be set aside to showcase vintage items from the Daily News' history, which spanned 131 years beginning in 1884.

The building will hopefully be ready for occupancy during the first half of 2018, Cherepko said, but the city must first get inside and see what needs to be done.

He said that reusing the Daily News Building could have a significant impact on the city's economy and morale, and that it should be the first step toward generating foot traffic --- and new business --- Downtown.

"We've got Dura-Bond opening up two blocks away, we've got the new transit center being constructed on Lysle Boulevard, and we've got the medical marijuana facility," Brewster said. "I think we're heading in the right direction."

Originally published November 28, 2017.

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