(Photos special to Tube City Almanac)
Parts of two Downtown streets remain closed today after a brick pillar fell from the Executive Building.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko hopes the incident, which occurred last week, is the catalyst that convinces its New York owner to either invest in the troubled office building --- now vacant --- or sell it.
The final tenants moved out of the five-story yellow brick building at the end of last year.
"I'm trying to find out if I can find anyone interested in investing in the building," Cherepko said. "We've not been happy about the situation at all."
The bricks that fell into the sidewalk along Ringgold Street appear to be decorative, not structural, Cherepko said. No one was injured and no other damage was reported.
But the mayor said that city building inspector Chris House examined pillars on the Fifth Avenue side of the structure and observed what appear to be serious cracks in that facade, as well.
As a result, Fifth is closed as a precaution between Walnut and Locust streets, Cherepko said, and Ringgold is also blocked off.
It's unclear what caused the bricks to fall from the Executive Building, he said, though city officials are speculating that severe cold weather over the last few weeks caused water between the bricks to freeze, and crack them apart.
"We have been in touch with the owner, and he is in the process of working with the building inspector to resolve the problem," Cherepko said. In a worst-case scenario, he said, the damaged pillars may be demolished temporarily for safety reasons.
Built in the 1970s as part of the redevelopment of the Downtown area following the removal of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks, the 33,000-square-foot Executive Building once housed professional offices for doctors, dentists and attorneys, as well as a short-lived four-screen movie theater.
In more recent years, most of the tenants were social services agencies.
Property tax records indicate that the building is owned by the Shel-Am Corp. of Brooklyn, N.Y., which purchased it in 1993.
According to the state Corporation Bureau in Harrisburg, the president and treasurer of Shel-Am is Aaron Muschel or Mushel of Brooklyn.
Attempts by Tube City Almanac to reach Muschel on Sunday were not successful, and phone numbers provided by directory assistance for Muschel in New York were out of service.
Tax records indicate that Shel-Am has not paid its county property taxes for 2015, 2016 or 2017.
In October 2017, McKeesport Area School District obtained a default judgement against Shel-Am for $56,595 in unpaid real estate taxes, according to Allegheny County court records, while North Carolina-based Xoom Energy obtained a default judgement against Shel-Am in December 2017 for $83,042 in unpaid electric bills.
In 2004, there was a proposal by Propel Schools to open its McKeesport charter school in the building and complete a $1 million renovation. That deal fell through, and in 2006, Propel moved into the former St. Mary Czestochowa parochial school on Versailles Avenue instead.
The Executive Building narrowly avoided a sheriff's sale in 2010 after Shel-Am defaulted on a mortgage on which it owed $423,374. Court records indicate that Shel-Am paid $25,000 to stay the sheriff's sale.
At the time, the corporation noted in a filing that its rental income from the Executive Building and two other properties in Allegheny County was "not sufficient to pay all operating costs."
According to Cherepko, the last major tenant in the Executive Building was a regional office for the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth & Familes. The county's website indicates that office has relocated to North Versailles Twp.
Cherepko said that until recently, city officials felt they were getting "the runaround" from the building's owner.
"They had very few tenants left, and we felt they really started to let the building go," he said. "My understanding is that once the county moved out, they had no revenue at all."
Signs in the windows of the building's remaining retail stores indicate they have moved to Walnut Street, White Oak and North Versailles Twp.
Originally published January 08, 2018.