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Purchase deal boosts Carrie Furnace plans

By Ann Belser,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Friday, June 03, 2005

Allegheny County is close to an agreement to purchase the Carrie Furnace site, which has been vacant since the old iron-making facility on the banks of the Monongahela River closed in the mid-1980s.

The purchase of the former blast furnace should allow the county to proceed with a multi-million dollar plan to revitalize the Mon’s north bank from Swissvale to North Braddock.

The development is expected to include a steel industry museum, conference center, housing, offices, a transportation center and light industry.

Dennis Davin, director of the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, said he hoped the purchase will be announced within the next week or two, but the county will not actually take over the property until the end of the summer.

The financial details were incomplete and the purchase price wasn’t available yesterday.

The news was greeted with a cheer from William H. “Lucky” Price III, the Rankin Council president who has been a member of the county’s Carrie Furnace Steering Committee for the last five years.

“That’s sounds good. I hope that’s true,” he said.

In September, Gov. Ed Rendell gave the county $6 million to be used for the site from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. That money has to be matched dollar for dollar by either local or federal money. It can be used to buy the site and for environmental cleanup and infrastructure improvements.

The 103-acre parcel is currently owned by the Park Corp., which bought the property in Rankin and Swissvale in the same sale in which it acquired U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, which was a 311-acre site.

Park bought the land on both sides of the Monongahela River from the steelmaker in 1988 for nearly $3 million. The land in Rankin and Swissvale was valued at that time at $500,000.

In 2001, the county hired the architecture firm of MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni to develop a master plan for 205 acres that includes the Carrie Furnace site and areas of Braddock and Rankin between Braddock Avenue and the Monongahela River to the Edgar Thomson Works. The plan was put together after a series of meetings with residents in Braddock, Rankin and Swissvale.

The county has been negotiating with Park since 2001 to buy the Carrie Furnace property.

A redevelopment plan for the Carrie Furnace site and lower Braddock calls for the furnace to be refurbished into an exhibit as part of the Steel Industry National Historic Park, with a hotel and conference center built near the furnace, which is in Rankin.

The plan calls for building housing on 44 acres to the west of the furnace in Swissvale and office buildings to the east in Rankin.

The hot metal rail bridge that connected Carrie Furnace to the Homestead Works is slated to be converted to a automobile bridge connecting to the Waterfront development, a popular retail, office and housing development built on the former site of the Homestead Works. That development spans three communities, from Munhall through Homestead and into West Homestead.

The redevelopment plan goes beyond property that formerly made up Carrie Furnace and includes a large parking area that could serve as a park-and-ride for commuters using buses, water taxis and, possibly, light rail. The transportation center, to be built on 15 acres, would tie into a tramway running above the area. It would also be linked to the Eliza Furnace Trail for bicycles and pedestrians, extending it through Hazelwood and Duck Hollow to connect to the Carrie Furnace site.

In Braddock, the plan calls for encouraging small businesses, shops, and studios to locate along Braddock Avenue at street level with apartments above. There would also be housing built between Braddock Avenue and the river with light industry placed along the river and near the Edgar Thomson Works on the North Braddock border.

The Homestead Works is now nearly completely redeveloped. John Dindak, the mayor of West Homestead, recently announced that Costco, the chain of warehouse clubs, plans to build a store between the smokestacks and Sandcastle Water Park.

Other brownfields in McKeesport and Duquesne are now controlled by the Regional Industrial Development Corp. Businesses are already located on those sites, though there is more land available at both properties.

(Jerome Sherman contributed to this report. Ann Belser can be reached at or 412-263-1699.)

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