Preservation act / Carrie Furnace can forge redevelopment
Saturday, June 18, 2005
It was an Allegheny County initiative launched under then Chief Executive Jim Roddey. Now the deal has been sealed by his successor, Dan Onorato. In the end the public will get an historic blast furnace, which could one day anchor a steel heritage site, and 137 acres of land, which could spark business, commercial and residential development in Rankin and Swissvale.
The tentative purchase of the Carrie Furnace site from the Park Corp. for $5.75 million from a state grant will be a bargain if the county’s plans for the abandoned industrial property come to fruition. One need only look across the Monongahela River, at Park’s success in developing The Waterfront complex, to see what can be done with a former mill tract.
Mr. Onorato praised that development this week, but said there was no need to duplicate The Waterfront’s big-box, suburban-style retail mix up and down the river. Each idle, former industrial site offers its own potential, and the challenge for developers is to draw out the best from each.
A key difference with the Carrie Furnace site is it contains a hulking old blast furnace, which operated between 1907 and 1983 during Big Steel’s heyday, that will be preserved and used as an educational tool. Plans are to build an adjacent conference center and hotel.
Combine that with the restored Bost Building, the reused Pump House and the historic spot of the 1892 Pinkerton landing on the other side of the Mon, and the county stands to build a greater case for Congress one day to declare the heritage area a National Park site.
But first the county must begin soil testing to gauge the extent of contamination. If all goes as planned, money can be transferred on the purchase in 90 days and the abandoned industrial site will come under the control of Allegheny County.
Then the public sector will have the challenge in Rankin and Swissvale of doing — or maybe even outdoing — what the private sector has done in Homestead and Munhall.