$200,000 state grant will help make urban park possible


A $200,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will help make a community park in the heart of Braddock a reality.

Mon Valley Initiative announced today that DCNR is providing funds from the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund for construction of Braddock Civic Plaza, to be built on part of the former site of UPMC Braddock Hospital. DCNR is the primary source of state support for Pennsylvania recreation, parks and conservation initiatives.

Matching funds have been committed to Braddock Civic Plaza by the Grable Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and the Allegheny Foundation, said Laura Zinski, chief executive officer of MVI.

MVI is developing Braddock Civic Plaza on behalf of the Borough of Braddock, which will take ownership of the site once the park is built. The site is being donated to Braddock by TREK Development Inc.

A formal groundbreaking for Braddock Civic Plaza is expected later in 2017, Zinski said.

“Besides providing needed greenspace and a new focal point on Braddock Avenue for businesses and nearby residents, Braddock Civic Plaza will connect The Overlook housing development with the main commercial district,” Zinski said.

“Braddock Civic Plaza is an important step toward making Braddock a better place to live, work and raise a family, and toward restoring vitality and a sense of purpose to Braddock Avenue, a historically important thoroughfare in the Mon Valley,” Zinski said.

Braddock Civic Plaza, to be located on Braddock Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets, is a key component of a “main street” revitalization planning process led by MVI and MVI’s local partner, the Braddock Economic Development Corp., along with local officials, residents and business owners.

The planning process, started in early 2009 before the hospital closure announcement, was an effort to reimagine and reshape the Braddock Avenue business district. This effort became even more important in the wake of the hospital’s departure, Zinski said, and gave the community a chance to think strategically about what type of redevelopment would be most beneficial.

Work already completed since 2012 has resulted in the development of 24 new townhouses, known as The Overlook, on part of the former Braddock Hospital property, as well as TREK Development’s construction of a new 20,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial and residential building, anchored by an Allegheny Health Network urgent care center, at 501 Braddock Ave.

In 2015 and 2016, MVI renovated the former Braddock Free Press buildings, which are now home to Studebaker Metals, local start-up Meter Feeder, the Braddock Inclusion Project, Camp Copeland Studios and Braddock Variety store, as well as seven residential apartments. These projects were supported by public and private funds from county, state and federal sources as well as local banks, including Dollar Bank, PNC Bank and WesBanco Bank Inc.

Founded in 1988, Mon Valley Initiative is a non-profit coalition of community development groups serving municipalities in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Its focus areas are community outreach, housing counseling, housing and real estate development and workforce and business development.