Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks to get new look

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McKees Rocks soon may have a more welcoming appearance because of an effort to rebuild the Chartiers Avenue business district.

The railroad trestle near the avenue‘‍s intersection with Island Avenue will be the first area to be targeted, architect Jonathan Glance said Tuesday at a public meeting in the borough building to explain the project. It is being undertaken by the borough and the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. 

“The train track is unattractive. It divides the community. [It] detracts from it and is not welcoming,” said Mr. Glance, of Lami Grubb Architects, which is taking the lead role in redesigning Chartiers Avenue. “It’s a no-brainer to start there.”

Improvements to the trestle and sidewalk area underneath will create a more welcoming entrance to the town, he said.

“The trestle will be cleaned up, painted, and better lighting will be installed. Work will start in September and be done by the end of October, or no later than Thanksgiving,” he said. 

“It will be the first step in seeing real change,” Mr. Glance said.

A second key component of the Charters Avenue makeover is restoring two-way traffic.

Taris Vrcek, executive director of the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp., said bids have come back for new two-way traffic signals for Chartiers Avenue, and the state Department of Transportation will repave the roadway this summer.

Restoring two-way traffic on Chartiers will help slow vehicles, Mr. Glance said.

“When you have lanes of traffic that go through communities, people tend to drive faster through the community. It doesn’t lend itself to balance.

“We want to strike a balance between doing things quickly and doing things right,” he said.

Street furniture, new trash cans and better lighting also are part of the revitalization plan. Landscaping improvements will include street trees and flowers.

“The trees and flowers will show that people care about the street,” Mr. Glance said.

Another improvement under consideration is adding bump-outs, which are curb extensions at the intersections. They have a psychological effect of slowing traffic and they help to define the parking areas, he said.

Mr. Glance said pedestrian crossings midway in a block can better connect parking on Furnace Street with Chartiers Avenue.

A park along Chartiers Creek and a pedestrian walkway along the creek are also part of the revitalization plan.

Strengths to build on, he said, include the Father Ryan Arts Center, The Hollowood Music Store, a restored Roxian Theater, and the Grimes and Linders furniture stores that attract customers from a wide area beyond McKees Rocks.

Mr. Glance believes the borough can build on its rich music and historical heritage by staging festivals and concerts, perhaps in an outdoor performance space near Chartiers Creek.

“This is our downtown,” Mr. Vrcek said. “This is our future.” 

Bob Podurgiel, freelance writer:

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