Braddock—Mon Valley Initiative hosted a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the newly-renovated Free Press Buildings in Braddock, featuring speeches by HUD Pittsburgh Field Office Director Jane Miller, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Braddock Council President Tina Doose, Mon Valley Initiative Chief Executive Officer, Laura Zinski, and other project partners. The Ribbon Cutting took place on Friday, Oct. 30, at 10:00 a.m. at the corner of Braddock Avenue and Corey Avenue in Braddock, Pa.
The four properties referred to as the Free Press Buildings, a $1.65 million restoration project, are located at 522, 524, 526, and 528 Braddock Avenue. The restored buildings now consist of seven commercial spaces suitable for both larger companies and smaller businesses, along with seven residential apartments on the upper floors targeted to mixed-income renters.
These four properties were once home to Braddock anchors such as Guentert’s Bakery, the Braddock Moose Lodge and the Braddock Free Press newspaper. They remain among the most historically intact buildings along Braddock Avenue. The structures were identified by the community as a priority during a Braddock Avenue visioning process in 2011 that was held in response to the announced closure of UPMC Braddock Hospital. Ranking second only to the redevelopment of the hospital site itself, the renovation of these buildings was vital to insuring that Braddock’s proud history was retained.
As a partner in the major redevelopment efforts underway on the former hospital site, MVI and local member, the Braddock Economic Development Corporation, listened to the community’s direction and prioritized the Free Press buildings for redevelopment as well.
With assistance from the Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program, MVI acquired the properties in late 2013. Immediately upon acquisition, MVI invested $150,000 to address significant deterioration, stabilizing the buildings that turned out to be on the verge of collapse. Additional vital funding was then provided by Allegheny County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, allowing a total renovation. With miraculous timing, what could have been a great loss to the community is now an inspiration.
MVI now has a number of new businesses lined up to fill the commercial spaces and a waiting list for the residential units. In all, the project restores 28,000 square feet to the tax rolls, providing a boost to the local economy.
MVI Real Estate Director Patrick Shattuck shared, “Thanks to the willingness of the MVI Community Investment Fund and Board which pledged upfront funding, and Braddock Borough which issued emergency permits, MVI was able to immediately mobilize with our contractor and partner, Disaster Restoration Services, to ensure that these buildings did not fall victim to years of water infiltration and deterioration, not visible from the street. Their complete restoration, in just over 18 months, is a testament to the will of Braddock residents and government and the strength of MVI and its funder partners to honor commitments to restore economic vitality to our communities.”
Braddock Council President, Tina Doose, commented, “As an elected official and leader we are not looking to reinvent the Braddock of the past, but we are forging ahead to build a Braddock community that will make future generations proud.”
She sees the redevelopment of the Free Press Buildings as a major stride towards reaching this goal and noted “to see this beautiful iconic building renovated and occupied by retailers on the commercial level is monumental.”
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