Several McKees Rocks business owners are questioning the amount of time and money the Community Development Corp. has spent on the former Roxian Theater at 425 Chartiers Ave. instead of setting sights on updating the downtown as a whole.
"Improving the lights, improving the trash cans, that probably should have been first," said Dwayne Grimes, who owns and operates Grimes Furniture at 522 Chartiers with his wife, Tamara. He was among the business owners who gathered Sept. 4 to discuss preliminary plans to revitalize the neighborhood.
The CDC purchased the former theater for $300,000 in February 2011, according to the Allegheny County Office of Property Assessment website. It has received state and county grants totaling $750,000 to restore the site, with more needed.
Taris Vrcek, CDC executive director, pointed out that the state's Main Street Program was eliminated in 2009.
"We've tried to pull off a lot with a little," he said. "I'm trying to build a Main Street program from zero."
Anthony Adamchik, owner of Boni's Floral Shoppe at 531 Chartiers, asked why the Roxian receives such grants, while businesses are required to apply for matching grants that require the owners to follow stringent directives.
"We've struggled immensely to keep our business and keep it growing," said Tamara Grimes.
Officials pointed out that grants for the Roxian will benefit the whole community, while grants to help business owners are mainly benefiting their bottom line. The CDC is also a not-for-profit organization.
"Maybe I'm jealous," said Mr. Grimes, "It seems so one-sided."
Additionally, Mr. Vrcek noted the work already completed on the Roxian coincided with making the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie brownfield site marketable.
"Positive or negative, we need to hear from the community, and the community spoke," Mr. Vrcek wrote in an email to attendees after the meeting. "Hopefully, you found the meeting informative and are energized about the possibilities of making our downtown a vibrant and attractive destination we can all enjoy."
An open house at the Roxian providing updated plans and progress is being scheduled for October.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.