Turn-Around Towns

The National Main Street Conference, Going West Mobile Workshop was lead by Josette Fitzgibbons, Neighborhood Business District Manager of URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) a giant revolving loan funded by Federal, Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh tax sources to support revitalization of many main streets when banks can’t fill in the gap.

Josette Fitzgibbons, URA guide

Josette Fitzgibbons, URA guide

Going West Mobile Workshop

Going West Mobile Workshop

McKees Rocks:

With just 6K people in 1 mile radius this tiny main street experienced a sharp decline when the railroad stopped coming through.  Since the 1980’s it has become the community of last resort with numerous challenges. The average home can be bought for under $50,000 with 65% transient renters.

Missing teeth vacant lots at McKees Rocks

Missing teeth vacant lots at McKees Rocks

With generational poverty, 80% are single parents and 100% of the school kids qualify for free lunch.

McKees Rocks Main Street

McKees Rocks Main Street

Josette had a couple of developers along the walking tour who pointed out buildings poised for revitalization along Chartiers Avenue.  One of the turn-around tours started at a 2 story building with a classic Corinthian column façade.   Sadly, the building is used as a vertical land fill of outdated computers. Attempting to sidestep an incapable building owner, developers worked with lawyers to form a conservatorship, a judge appointed guardian over an impaired building owner.

Historic Building Used as Vertical Land Fill

Historic Building Used as Vertical Land Fill

The Roxian Theatre Tour

The Roxian Theatre Tour

Next, the group stepped inside historic Roxian Theatre building along the 1/5 of a mile long Main Street. The original plans to renovate came in way over budget so the project stalled. The inside is a mess with dropped down ceilings covering historic filigree and exposed metal air handler ducts along the side walls.

The Roxian Theatre Building Renovation

The Roxian Theatre Building Renovation

Funding sources are in place for the Roxian, but there are operating challenges such as how to create affordable attractions in a hard scrabble neighborhood.

Little things link people together.

Little things link people together.

West End Village:

Josette’s hometown and 2 businesses that brought manufacturing to a stagnant Main Street.

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

West End Main Street Tour

The Miller Process Coating Company was our first stop.

Business Finds Stability in a Historic Building

Business Finds Stability in a Historic Building

West End is attractive to the working class who want peace and quiet. It is only 15 minutes away from downtown Pittsburgh and the building prices are affordable. One entrepreneur bought a 2 story historic brick building on the gateway of Main Street and completed a full loan revitalization.  West End is in close proximity to the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Not only did he have to adhere to the codes of the City but the building owner encountered major flooding problems on the first floor.

Manufacturing in a Historic Building

Manufacturing in a Historic Building

Cutting in a Skylight

Cutting in a Skylight

Manufacturing robotics

Manufacturing robotics

The Unfinished Look is Trending

The Unfinished Look is Trending

The building owner hesitated when asked if he would tackle a project like this again. The result is an attractive working environment to design and build specialty machines and robotics. The tour continued to James Gallery a business wearing different hats to thrive.

Art Gallery, Gallery Rental for Events and Custom Framing

Art Gallery, Gallery Rental for Events and Custom Framing

Beautiful Inviting Front Entry off Main Street

Beautiful Inviting Front Entry off Main Street

The property owner sat on 2 lots for several years before opening up the James Gallery in a historic 2 story brick building.  The front of the building is open structure for the art gallery. The owner added ceiling hung flexible lighting and finished out the brick walls in drywall to accentuate the art pieces.

Art Gallery/Art Gallery Rental Space w/ Commercial Kitchen

Art Gallery/Art Gallery Rental Space w/ Commercial Kitchen

It helps to have the commercial kitchen and restrooms in the middle of the space to make it easy to rent out for functions.  A narrow slice of space behind the art gallery serves as custom frame shop.

Manufacturing Comes to Main Street

Manufacturing Comes to Main Street

Custom Framing Comes to Main Street

Custom Framing Comes to Main Street

The adjoining lot has been transformed into an outdoor overflow for gallery rentals complete with trees, metal sculpture and outdoor furniture.

Hidden Sculpture Courtyard Overflow for Gallery Event Rentals.

Hidden Sculpture Courtyard Overflow for Gallery Event Rentals.

Carnegie:

This main street has overcome challenges with severe flooding in 2004 and a pedestrian street close off  in the 1960’s.  This Main Street has a lot going for it in the short distance of 1200 lineal feet! Main Street extends further but looses the small continuous scale when the height of the top of buildings is broken with huge parking lot gaps and buildings set back from the sidewalk.

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Carnegie Main Street Tour

Small Scale is an Asset for a Main Street

Small Scale is an Asset for a Main Street

Tell the Story Even When the Store is Closed

Tell the Story Even When the Store is Closed

A historian walked with us detailing how Carnegie has always been a borough for tight knit ethnic groups.  The were unique place to eat like Riley’s Pour House, Cafe Delhi and one-of-a-kind favorites like Bacn.

Bring Something Unique

Bring Something Unique

Many of the historic buildings have been revitalized with dance studios, one single story building tucked in the middle of Main Street is The Flying Squirrel that is a nostalgic emporium where you can buy ice cream, candy and nostalgic toys like a 1970’s Chatter Telephone with the rolling eyeballs!

Nostalgic Shopping on Main Street

Nostalgic Shopping on Main Street

The Flying Squirrel has a great Facebook thread with updates on quirky happenings like Dr. Who showings and Harry Potter night. The signature event is the Carnegie Crawl every 2nd Friday of the month. Each crawl is different local businesses have special deals and refreshments and sometimes there is music in the streets.

Carnegie Crawl

Carnegie Crawl

Business owners who participate place a snail logo in their storefront window.

Main Street Learns from Madison, Georgia

By: Lara Serbin, Buckeye Main Street Coalition

Last month was the National Main Streets Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The Buckeye Main Street Coalition members Jay Broadbent, Charlene Powers, Brian and Kristi McAchran and Lara Serbin were fortunate to attend this important event.   We had many opportunities to talk to others who are doing similar events, facade improvements and fundraising.  We saw a different perspective on how to improve historic downtown Buckeye.

The Omni Hotel hosted the conference with ongoing workshops and a trade show. Learning sessions included topics like crowdfunding, volunteerism, historic preservation, museums, festivals and engaging your community.

Mobile Workshops explored downtown districts located in and around Atlanta. City staff, Managers, Main Street volunteers and business owners lead walking tours and explained lessons learned regarding revitalization.  There are so many creative ideas that came from these tours.   Meeting other Main Street members was a significant way to affirm or re-examine how we do things.

Mixed-Use Infill

Mixed-Use Infill

I specifically went on the Madison, Georgia tour to learn how they revitalized downtown with community funding. Madison founded in 1809 is one hour from Atlanta and PGA Masters in Augusta and an active historic district with 600 buildings.  Exiting the freeway, the country road leading to Madison was welcoming with widely spaced historic homes. Mayor Perriman was there to greet us with a short and sweet introduction. Any place that has a coffee table book called Madison, A Classic Southern Town just speaks for itself.

Madison, GA New Town Park

Madison, GA New Town Park

The tour began at Madison Town Park that covered 2 blocks in the heart of the railroad industrial district. It was easy to find bearings quickly with the before and after photos posted on each corner.  There was so much to cover we zipped along from point to point.

New buildings that surround the Madison Town Park have either mixed-use with retail and residential or commercial.  Some of the buildings really looked historic even though they were new construction.  I couldn’t be fooled.  There were great efforts to reproduce by-gone historic landmarks within this park like the fountain was recreated from some pieces found from local citizens and across the country to match what was missing .  The fundraising goal in 2009 was $4.5 million which $2 million was raised completely by local citizens.

New Made to Look Historic

New Made to Look Historic

On either side of the park was mixed-use condos. First floor retail and two story condos in the back.  Architectural details were collected by Monica Callahan, Planning Development for the Downtown Development Association who sent developers stacks of photos of how she wanted the building to look.  She added value by exploring details from surrounding historic towns.

Loft Overlooking Town Park

Loft Overlooking Town Park

Inside the condos, spaces were tall and roof decks looked over the park. No condos can be leased. Another variation of this was across the park. Here the living lofts were on the 3rd floor of The James Madison Inn. One owner had a personal elevator from the lobby of the hotel to the living room of his home.  As we begin to develop design guidelines here in Buckeye these ideas from Madison will add to our understanding of mixed-use.

For more information: https://buckeyemainstreet.org/old-site/national-main-streets-conference-atlanta-2015/