Tube City Almanac

December 18, 2008

Walnut St. Corridor Gets Makeover in '09

Category: News || By

Jeremiah Ostrosky photoA prominent (but underused) corner of Downtown McKeesport will be getting a makeover in the spring.

Renovations to J. Clarence Kelly Park are expected to get underway at the same time that Walnut Street and Fifth Avenue are being improved.

And because at least 10 homeowners in Christy Park are eligible for funding for new facades and other repairs to their homes, the entire Walnut Street corridor could look a little better at this time next year.

Kelly Park --- best known as the home of the city's last remaining railroad crossing shanty --- is being redone with the assistance of a $215,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Although used for the weekly summer "Lunch on the Lawn" events and as a play area for nearby day care centers, the park is otherwise neglected.

"When you're driving past, it looks OK, but when you're over there walking around, (you can tell) it's become unkempt," says Bethany Budd Bauer, city director of community development. "Our goal is really just to freshen it up and green it up."

. . .

Named for one of the city's most prominent physicians, the park was created in the 1970s after the removal of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks that bisected Downtown.

For many years, the park was owned by the city Redevelopment Authority, which held the deed in case a business owner wanted to use the land for commercial use.

Initial plans called for a fairly elaborate renovation of Kelly Park, but Bauer says the rapidly rising cost of construction supplies will likely force a more modest scheme.

The work will likely include repairs to the pavilion at the center of the park, replacement of trees and shrubs, and decorative fencing around the edges, Bauer says.

Planning is being completed by Senate Engineering Corp. and bids will probably be solicited in March or April.

If the work stretches into the summer, Bauer says "Lunch on the Lawn" may be temporarily relocated to Kennedy Park or Gergely Riverfront Park.

. . .

Improvements to Kelly Park will come as work finally begins on a long-delayed, state-funded project to install new street lights, traffic controls, signs and other amenities to Fifth Avenue between Huey and Water streets.

In addition, two-way traffic will be restored to Fifth for the first time since the 1960s.

But rather than focusing all of their attention on Fifth Avenue --- once the city's main shopping district, but now largely vacant or occupied by marginal business --- city officials are working to reshape the Walnut Street corridor that connects Downtown and the marina with Elizabeth Township.

Sidewalks will be installed this spring along Walnut between the 15th Avenue Bridge and the 2000 block near CP Industries.

The money is coming through the "Elm Street Program" administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Created in 2004 by the state Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell, the Elm Street Program funds improvements to older residential neighborhoods in distressed communities.

. . .

Perhaps the most significant improvement to Walnut and other streets in Christy Park, however, will come within the neighborhoods of the 11th Ward, through a series of grants to homeowners for facade improvements. All owner-occupied houses between Eden Park Boulevard and 24th Avenue are eligible for up to $5,000, says Jim Haughey, Elm Street Program Coordinator for McKeesport Housing Corp.

Although there are no income eligibility requirements, Haughey says homeowners must obtain matching funds for any grants they receive.

Improvements can include painting, cleaning, installing new siding, repairing porches or awnings, repointing brick, replacing windows or other capital investments, Haughey says.

. . .

According to Haughey, MHC wants to fund improvements to at least 10 houses, but more Christy Park homeowners may be eligible if individual projects cost less than $5,000.

Homeowners need only to make a request describing the kinds of improvements they need, Haughey says. "We write the specifications and put them out to bid," he says. "All of the contractors we use will be qualified to do safe work."

Three homes have already qualified, Haughey says. The deadline for applications is June 30.

For more information, call McKeesport Housing Corp. at (412) 664-7003.

Your Comments are Welcome!

Making Fifth Avenue two ways is the worst idea ever. Has anyone driven on that road lately? You will be so hard pressed to fit two larger vehicles side by side through there let alone a pat bus! Since they put in the larger sidewalks and those parking inlets the road has narrowed considerably! And what happened to riverfront park? That used to be a nice park but it has gone downhill big time! Its hard to see the river over the weeds growing so high on the bank!
Anonymous - December 20, 2008

What ever happened to the multi-million $ renovation of the stort fronts on Fifth Ave/Lysle Blvd? I remember that Dollar Bank invested money into a clean up project that only resulted in more unfinished buildings around Pizza Hut and the income tax preperation business. Is there any scuttlebutt about the former Peoples Bank Building ? I believe an out of region buyer was to develop the site. Is downtown dead or can we expect some positve changes?
Donn Nemchick - December 21, 2008

Ok, renovating Kelly Park & the Walnut St corridor sounds good. How long will it take for the undesirables who hang out in this park at night, to destroy it? This city needs to do a lot more than this,and unfortunately, the current administration has done nothing but make bronen promises on things that are coming. Remember “Discover McKeesport”? Where is the Aldi’s, & coffee house that were to be built by the new Rite Aid on Walnut St? The city needs to move forward, and get out of the past. I’m tired of seeing the Rent A Center and check cashing stores. How about something with some stability? The old National Tube land is there, and to me, it appears that Lysle Blvd(with improvements) cam handle traffic to and from the site. This city needs a team in place that can sell some ideas on this site to prospective buyers. If this mayor can’t get it done, get him out.
Jim - December 22, 2008

I think it is great that they will fix up an area in the downtown area, BUT, I think that they concentrate on the areas in which people first come into our fair city.

Like when you come off the Dravosburg bride, that ramp is horrible. Also in the East End with a traffic light sitting on the ground and boarded up buildings. It might be nice to have a little fixed up park downtown but when the areas that people enter our city look like crap it is hard to convince people that our fair city is getting better.

Clean up those areas first before worring about a little used downtown park.
Chris - December 22, 2008

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