Railroad site in McKees Rocks to become business park

June 21, 2011
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The ramshackle Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad site in McKees Rocks soon will undergo a renovation, transforming from eyesore to potential economic and environmental boon for the community.

Trinity Commercial Development LLC announced plans on Monday to develop the brownfield site into a flex-space business park that spans almost 500,000 square feet. The redevelopment is estimated to bring in more than 400 direct jobs, as well as $13 million in state and local taxes, a welcome change from the pile of broken glass and rubble that P&LE left when it went bankrupt about 15 years ago.

The railroad company also left soil contamination, requiring a costly environmental assessment before development can begin. But Trinity Commercial was spared the financial risk, as the $600,000 environmental assessment was funded entirely through grants from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The assessment found that in order for Trinity Commercial to meet the standards set by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, it has to cover the contaminated soil with sidewalks, parking lots and roads. Whatever isn’t covered will be moved. Craig Rippole, president of Trinity Commercial, said the cleanup would cost $1.5 million. A $1 million state-funded grant will go toward the cost with the developer paying the rest of the tab.

“A contaminated property … can stigmatize a community and make development next to impossible,” said Shawn Garvin, the regional administrator for the EPA mid-Atlantic region.

Mr. Rippole said the development company planned to rebuild the railway that runs through the site, making the business park railroad-accessible. Construction is expected to begin in the fall, although he said it might be 10 years before every stage is complete. Mr. Rippole said three tentative tenants had expressed interest in the development.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said this was an opportunity for Pittsburgh to become a leader in brownfield development, giving as examples former industrial sites The Waterfront and SouthSide Works.

Speakers were quick to tout the twofold benefit of revamping the site.

“Improving environmental quality can stir economic growth,” Mr. Garvin said. “This is exactly what McKees Rocks needed.”

During the conference, the EPA presented a $1 million check to the North Side Industrial Development Co., to be used on additional brownfield sites in the Pittsburgh area.