Member Highlight: Mckees-Rocks Community Development Corporation

27 Jan

  1. Organization: McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation
  2. Founding Date: 2003
  3. Executive Director: Taris Vrcek
  4. Board President: Tony Skender
  5. Current Staff Size: 3 full time, 2 part time
  6. What geographic area do you serve? Sto-Rox: McKees Rocks & Stowe Township
  7. What is your mission statement? The mission of the MRCDC is to facilitate investment and restore community pride to attract and retain residents and businesses.
  8. What is one project or program that you are really excited about? The historic Roxian Theatre, once a vaudeville movie house, is currently under redevelopment to open as a rock music venue in the McKees Rocks downtown business district. At 1500 seats, it will fill the void in Pittsburgh for a mid-size contemporary concert space, making the region more attractive to national acts and essentially changing the music scene all together. This project is expected to be a leading economic driver for the community. The Roxian is one of several key pieces that create a vibrant arts and entertainment district in this western neighborhood of PittsburghWith the completion of a feasibility study in 2013, and market assessment in 2014, the McKees Rocks CDC is working with the Palmer Westport Group to complete a comprehensive Master Plan that includes a local private operator. Stay tuned in early 2015 for the big announcement!
  9. What are some of your organization’s recent accomplishment? In October of 2013, CSX, a national leader in shipping services, announced the former P&LE Railroad site in Sto-Rox as the Pittsburgh location for an Intermodal Facility. The project creates transportation saving opportunities by giving western Pennsylvania shippers direct rail access at this freight transfer site. The facility will be part of an $850 million national project to clear a passage for double stack trains and will allow for Western Pennsylvania to be a vital access point for transportation, improving the region’s economy. In fact, at their Annual meeting on November 6th, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development named the CSX intermodal facility as one of three big regional wins for 2013.During construction, this project will create 360 jobs. Once operational, the facility will support approximately 40 on-site jobs, 40 drayage jobs, and 100 indirect jobs throughout the region. Beyond what it means for Southeastern PA, the facility promises to have a greater catalytic impact for McKees Rocks and Stowe Township, helping to accelerate investment in the adjacent Rocks Industrial Park and Lower Chartiers Avenue. Also being developed on the P&LE site is the state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot Island Studios sound stage expansion. The facilities will provide new and expanded opportunities for Western Pennsylvanians who work in the film, television and commercial production industry. The project will service the needs of the community by creating sustainable infrastructure that has not existed.  Island expects 250 full jobs will be created and over 300 jobs will be maintained (industry trained professional in need of sustainable work).  The new facility will have amenities that include hotel/condo living space, sound stages, mill space, parking, production office space, wardrobe, and editing and server rooms with data uplink space.
  10. What is your favorite thing about your neighborhood?Despite this community facing decades of severe economic decline, there has always remained a strong sense of camaraderie among its people. You don’t just have neighbors in the sense that there are 5 other houses on your block, you have neighbors who know your childhood nickname and bring you cookies that their mom just baked. It’s a very tight-knit community, and there’s pride in that.In addition to the great people here, the community is extremely pedestrian-friendly and located 5-10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. We are currently working with local and city officials to advocate for protected bike lanes on West Carson Street, which would give bikers a safe, direct route from McKees Rocks to Downtown Pittsburgh.
  11. What is one “must-see”/”must-do” when visiting your community?
    Although many residents throughout greater Pittsburgh know the name, few realize that Pierogis Plus is actually located in McKees Rocks. Situated on Island Avenue, after exiting left off of the McKees Rocks Bridge, Pierogis Plus is often named the best spot for Pittsburgh’s favorite Polish dish. Little known fact – Martha Stewart once sampled the pierogis on a visit to the city, and her thank you letter to the owner hangs on the wall inside!
  12. What is your neighborhood’s best kept secret?
    The Parkway Theater is a small neighborhood movie house on Broadway Avenue in the Stowe Township business district. The Theater features a café in the front of the house and a viewing room and stage in the back. Vintage furniture and church pews are positioned strategically to create intimate seating areas. The Parkway has an essence of coolness that is universally attractive to artists, residents, young professionals, and families throughout the region. Some of its most notable events are the Oscar Night Gala, gnocchi-making classes with classic Italian movie viewings, Cleveland Film Festival, and the Three Stooges Fest. If all of that doesn’t convince you to stop by – tickets typically cost less than $10!
  13. What is a restaurant or business in your neighborhood that partners with your organization for an event or on a regular basis? If so, how does the restaurant/business help?
    Hollowood Music and Sound is Pittsburgh’s go-to business for instruments, lessons and sound equipment. Family-owned, Hollowood has been a resident business of McKees Rocks for over 45 years. If you’ve seen a performance in Pittsburgh, it’s likely that you’ve experienced Hollowood’s pro-sound and equipment rentals. Hollowood has been a big help to our organization in providing rentals for our events and programs and in acting as a liaison between the CDC and the businesses of the Lower Chartiers Avenue district.
  14. Interesting fact: In 1753, George Washington considered the McKees Rocks Indian Mound as the site of Fort Pitt before deciding on the Point.
  15. Upcoming event(s): We have recently selected Saturday, June 20 as the date for our 2015 FEASTival. The FEASTival began in 2013 as a pop-up event to showcase the development in our downtown business district. With food being an integral part of the business and cultural heritage of McKees Rocks, it had to be the theme for the FEASTival. At the time, Pittsburgh policies were prohibitive of food trucks and where they’d want to be, so it seemed like the perfect fit. With 500 attendees in its first year, we knew the event had serious potential. Last year, the event grew to 1500 attendees (yes – that’s a 300% growth in one year!) thanks in part to a stronger focus on music, a winning partnership with the Thunderbird Café in Lawrenceville, 14 food truck/vendor participants, and 16 additional vendors.

    This year, we plan to further expand the FEASTival as we refine its mission. After completing two market studies surrounding the downtown business district, we have identified that a triad of art, music, and food will define the future success of downtown McKees Rocks. In a five-mile drive time, there is a demand for $7.3 million of full-service restaurant spending, and only $1.5 million is currently being met. Not only do we lack healthy options, but we lack options all together. With the Roxian Theatre project underway, the state-of-the-art Father Ryan Arts Center already operating across the street, and the clear desperation of our food industry, we aim to celebrate our vision of a revitalized, mixed-use downtown and bring awareness to the steps we need to get there.Teaser: This year’s entertainment will feature a NATIONAL ACT!
  16. Contact information:For further inquiries contact:
    Caitlin Hazelton
    Phone: (412) 331-9900
    Address: 611 Chartiers Avenue, McKees Rocks
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