PROJECTS 2017-03-24T14:15:31+00:00

PROJECTS

CURRENT PROJECTS 

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is working on a number of major projects involving traditional redevelopment, construction management of infrastructure improvements, management of City agencies, and residential rehabilitation. We work hard to obtain local, state, and federal funds to undertake these redevelopment projects and aid developers. Here are some of the Authority’s major projects we are currently working on:

Pipelines, Inc. 

JOHNSTOWN, PA – The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority announced today that an agreement has been reached between the Authority and Pipelines Inc. of East Liverpool, Ohio for the company to open a Johnstown based location. Their new location will be at 106 Iron Street.  Pipelines Inc. is a waterworks supply distribution company that stocks a variety of water, sewer, sanitary, and storm pipe, along with fittings and accessories such as valves, fire hydrants, service brass, and tap saddles. For over 25 years Pipelines Inc. has provided competitive pricing and outstanding customer service and can conform to project specifications as well as represent a wide variety of vendors and manufacturers that are considered the best in the industry.

“We have been working with Pipelines Inc since the beginning of 2017 and we were able to address their requirements for a location in Johnstown as well as our needs as the Authority. The 106 Iron Street site is a perfect location for them to open their second Pennsylvania location” JRA Executive Director Melissa Komar stated. The agreement with Pipelines is for 5 years with an option to extended (4) additional 5 years terms, or a total potential contract length of 25 years. “To have a company this willing to set up their business in Johnstown for 5 years, with the potential to extend as long as 25 years is a true testament to the value of our area. It shows the type of work ethic Pipelines Inc has, and shows that the Authority is willing to work with these companies that want to be a part of the Johnstown business community Komar stated. The new location is expected to open within a month. Pipelines Inc will open with 10 employees and has the opportunity to expand in the future.   Monsignor Balta is very supportive of this new opportunity for our area and is hopeful for expansion. He is also pleased that the authority is able to provide positive assets.

Redevelopment Corridors Grant Awarded

The Franklin Street Corridor/Gateway application was awarded to JRA on behalf of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies for the year 2017. This application was for a $25,000 grant.  The project will develop a strategy for strategic investment of multiple funding sources, streetscapes and property reuse.

JRA requested assistance to begin this process by starting on the Franklin Street Corridor, beginning at the Washington Street intersection in the Central Business District, extending through Kernville, 8th Ward and Roxbury neighborhoods, ending at the city line with Ferndale Borough.  This is a rather diverse corridor, characterized as follows:

  • Franklin Street has an average daily traffic volume of approximately 12,000 vehicles in the segment in the CBD and Kernville neighborhoods, and 6,300 vehicles in the 8th Ward/Roxbury area;
  • Three of the fourteen Urban routes travel segments of this corridor :
  • A considerable portion of the Duke Lifepoint Health System is located along this corridor; and
  • Roxbury Park and The Bandshell, critical venues of the region’s outdoor recreational resources, are accessed via this corridor.

CamTran Brownfields Assessment and Remediation Project

2013 Brownfields project associated with CamTran – JRA was part of site preparation phase – remediated identified site issues via “capping” as per Assessment/Plan and increased elevation of structure for floodplain

PAST PROJECTS 

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has completed numerous major projects involving traditional redevelopment, construction management of infrastructure improvements, management of City agencies, and residential rehabilitation. The Authority has a history of success in obtaining local, state, and federal funds to undertake redevelopment projects and aid developers. Some of the Authority’s major past projects include:

Methane Gas Projects 

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority partnered with Keystone Renewable Energy and our major industries, in cooperation with Waste Management, Inc., to revitalize the City of Johnstown through the Rager Mountain and Somerset Methane Recovery Projects. With these entities committed and three well-positioned landfills nearby, Johnstown was a prime location for advanced energy development. These renewable energy projects provide an opportunity to offer a clean and renewable energy source from the methane gas naturally produced from surrounding landfills. This previously untapped energy source represents an economic growth and development opportunity by providing a cheaper and environmentally friendly energy option to large industrial and commercial users of natural gas, and puts landfills to good use, as well as reducing the air pollution caused by allowing the methane to either be burned at the landfill site or escape into the atmosphere.

The methane projects include three local landfills owned by Waste Management, miles of pipeline and two landfill gas cleaning plants. Processed gas will be delivered from the landfill sites to Johnstown’s major industrial and commercial customers that were part of the efforts to bring renewable energy to the area. Six million dollars has already been invested to date on the Rager Mountain project and an additional $15 million will be required for construction of the pipelines and processing equipment for Phase II – Somerset.

The goals of the project were both economic and environmental. They included delivering a long-term supply of low-cost, reliable, renewable energy to manufacturing and industrial customers – which in turn can lower production costs, create jobs, and attract new business for Johnstown and the Commonwealth and significantly reduce local reliance upon natural gas while lowering contributions to air pollution.

The Methane Recovery Projects also provide potential long-term environmental benefits. Municipal solid waste landfills are the largest human-generated source of methane emissions, a very potent greenhouse gas. The collection and use of first year landfill gas flow is equivalent to taking 162,000 cars off the road, planting 225,000 acres of trees, preventing the use of 1,755,000 barrels of oil and heating more than 45,000 homes. The recovery of the methane gas also reduces the use of fossil fuels, which reduces air pollution and improves the quality of air near the landfills.

Johnstown Gateway Greenspace

Located at one of the most highly traveled gateways into the City’s Central Business District, the former B & O Freight Station was one of the City’s most visible brownfields. In the late 1990s, the Redevelopment Authority and City officials began working to purchase the property from CSX Transportation, owner of the Freight Station. The deal finally came to fruition in 2005.

As part of the deal, the Redevelopment Authority purchased the former Freight Station and City officials signed a lease for the .341 acres on which it sits. The building’s purchase was funded by donations from local citizens, William & Jeanne McKelvey and Don Bird, and a grant from the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

An environmental assessment and remediation were conducted prior to demolition. The cleared site is set to be the home for Johnstown’s Gateway Greenspace Project. The Redevelopment Authority was awarded a $84,800 PennDOT Transportation Enhancement Grant and $49,200 Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Community Conservation Partnership Grant to fund the creation of a downtown greenspace. The Gateway Greenspace Project has transformed one of the City’s most highly visible brownfield sites into an aesthetically pleasing greenspace parklet and passive recreation area at the gateway to the downtown. Located along the Stonycreek River, the development of the Johnstown Gateway Greenspace works to restore our riverbanks to a natural setting, providing an ecological friendly site for native species to be returned to the area. The project is highlighted by planting of selected native shrubs and trees. Also planned for the site is an attractive “Welcome to Johnstown” arch, a flower garden, benches, lighting, and new walkways. The Johnstown Gateway Greenspace will be an integral piece of the Johnstown Open Space/Greenway Plan, and the Cambria County Greenway Plan.

Greater Johnstown Regional Technology Park

The Greater Johnstown Regional Technology Complex Project, creating medical technology and information technology industries at the site of a deteriorating inner-city brownfield, seeks to restore the vibrancy and economic vitality of the City of Johnstown.

Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital, Greater Johnstown’s leading employer, has boldly moved forward to create a state-of-the-art complex representing a $22.5 million investment in the community. This exciting new project will place the Johnstown Region on the forefront of innovation and technology utilization for the 21st Century. The Regional Technology Complex will create a state-of-the-art setting for information technology and related health science biotechnology in an environmentally aesthetic campus setting with building components linked through fiber optics as well as greenspace.

Following the commitment by Conemaugh Health System to construct the complex, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority and project partners were awarded nearly $9 million to redevelop this inner-city brownfield site, the former Sani-Dairy plant in Kernville. The Commonwealth Financing Authority awarded the JRA a $2 million loan and a $2 million grant in January of 2005 for use in property clearance and utility installation at the site. This $4 million was part of the $43.6 million awarded statewide under the “new stimulus” Business In Our Sites initiative. Governor Rendell also announced an additional $6 million in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funding.

After considering several potential development sites, Conemaugh Health Systems boldly chose the former Sani-Dairy plant as home for its proposed Greater Johnstown Regional Technology Complex. Sani-Dairy was a prime location for redevelopment, ripe for using the principles of sustainable development. The decision to locate the Technology Park at the former inner-city brownfield has provided an economic boost to Johnstown’s economy and complements revitalization efforts downtown.

The Tech Park Complex was completed in 2008, with a grand-opening held on October 29, 2008.  The Complex provides economic diversification for the region through the promotion of technology-based businesses.  Tenants for the park include Northrop Grumman, Conemaugh Health Systems, and the Department of Labor – Division of Coal Mine Worker’s Compensation in addition to creating space for new and growing health care and technology businesses. These companies will help diversify the Johnstown economy by embracing new information technologies and health related business developments.

This sustainable facility, built along the Stonycreek River with exterior environmental-friendly objectives, provided an opportunity to for the JRA to create the Tech Park Riverwalk.  The Riverwalk, a greenway trail, is lined with native flora landscaping, benches, tables, trees, shrubbery and planters that not only complement the building but allows for an outdoor public respite.  It is within walking distance of many local businesses and residential areas and links together downtown pedestrian trails.

Kernville Redevelopment Plaza

The Redevelopment Authority began clearing vacant and blighted properties within the 600 Block of Kernville in efforts to promote the renewal and revitalization of Kernville. By removing the eyesores that can often discourage development, the Authority has been able to attract new developments into the Kernville section of the City.

The Redevelopment Authority works with City officials to acquire, demolish, and attract business to the neighborhood. Utilizing federal CDBG funds, as well as monies from previous sales, the partners are pushing forward the revitalization of Kernville.

Kernville Redevelopment Plaza projects include:

  • The Greater Johnstown Water Authority Complex project has served as the spark of revitalization for the 600 Block of Kernville. Developed on twelve formerly blighted parcels, the new complex was the first development to invest in the Kernville neighborhood.
  • The Gella Professional Building was built upon a lot formerly comprised of six blighted properties. This new development represents the first new private business to relocate to Kernville. Groundbreaking took place in October 2005. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and U.S. Representative John Murtha joined the Gellas as they celebrated the facility’s opening in April 2006.
  • Kernville Arts District has been specially zoned so that interested artists can live, work, teach, and conduct retail sales from their homes. The City has designed an attractive program with great financial incentives for qualifying artists from all over the country who relocate to Kernville. With many vacant structures available for rehabilitation, the Kernville neighborhood is ripe for redevelopment as an arts district.
  • The ITSI Bioscience Science and Technology Center: Kernville has recently been eyed as a biotechnology hub for the Johnstown area. With the development of the Greater Johnstown Regional Technology Park within the Kernville neighborhood and just two blocks from the 600 Block Redevelopment Plaza, biotechnology companies are showing interest. The Authority has secured a location in the 600 block for ITSI Bioscience Science and Technology Innovation Center, a leading developer of ready-to-use kits for biomedical research.
  • The Kernville Community Garden was transformed from a formerly blighted parcel into a community project that allows Kernville residents to take pride in their neighborhood. This garden was made possible through the collaboration of the Redevelopment Authority with ACRP and their many project partners.

The Authority is continuously acquiring properties and working toward blight removal – and in doing so creating marketable space for economic development in Kernville. For more information regarding available property in Kernville, please contact the Redevelopment Authority.

Greater Johnstown High School

The Greater Johnstown High School expansion project, which began in the summer of 1999, represents a unique public to public partnership between the Greater Johnstown School District and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority. The Redevelopment Authority assisted in the acquisition of seven industrial and commercial properties adjacent to the existing high school to provide for an upgraded and expanded high school campus. The Authority obtained state and federal grants on behalf of the School District to undertake assessment and cleanup activities, assuring a safe and clean environment for all visitors and users of the site. KU Resources, Inc. was retained to perform the environmental assessment and to oversee all cleanup activities, including the removal of 26 underground storage tanks. Remediation was conducted pursuant to the Pennsylvania Act 2 Land Recycling Program.

Grant funds were secured by the Redevelopment Authority from the PA DCED and the US EPA to enable the School District to continue the project without a tax increase.

The new High School and Stadium were opened in 2003. This project resulted in the creation of the first new high school building in over 75 years.  Trojan Stadium marks the first high school campus football facility in the history of Johnstown High.  The expanded high school campus boasts a new 221,000 square foot building that houses 85 academic and vocational classrooms, renovated Cochran Auditorium, and the state-of-the-art 4,200 seat multi-purpose athletic facility – Trojan Stadium.

Johnstown Renaissance Project

Located conveniently along the Stonycreek River and directly off the Johnstown Expressway, the new Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center, Cambria County War Memorial Arena, and new Intermodal Transportation Center – all comprising the Johnstown Renaissance Complex – is a picturesque gateway to the City of Johnstown. 

In anticipation of the Renaissance Complex, the Redevelopment Authority purchased the adjacent and aging Center Towne Mall, a project it had created 30-years prior. The mall, which housed the only downtown grocery, closed in early 1997. Gaining control of the property was critical to secure necessary real estate for this project. The Authority was also able to find another grocer, which opened in March of the same year.

Located in the heart of Downtown, the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Centerwas funded with State and private monies, providing a state-of-the art meeting, banquet, and exhibition space to meet the needs of the region.  The Conference Center opened in spring of 2003 offering approximately 15,000 square feet of space, including smaller rooms for multiple event programming.

The Cambria County War Memorial Arena has played an important role in the history and quality of life in the City of Johnstown and Cambria County for over 50 years as a venue for shows of various types and sizes, sporting events – including basketball and ice hockey, as well as concerts.  Upgrades to the Arena included renovations to 4,000+ seats, renovations to the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, new restrooms and concessions areas, and air conditioning installation.  These renovations and upgrades help ensure the Arena’s success in drawing crowds to its events from all over the region.

The Intermodal Transportation Center, completed in January 2004, provides ample parking for visitors to the Pasquerilla Conference Center and War Memorial Arena in addition to parking for downtown businesses.  The parking garage contains 600 spaces and is connected to the regional public transportation system.

These projects serve as the gateway to Johnstown, and were conceived as signature pieces critical to the continued economic development of the City.

Hornerstown Industrial Park

Hornerstown Industrial Park is located along the Stonycreek River in the City of Johnstown. This Commercial/Industrial District has been in transition since the 1977 Flood when it sustained significant damage. Prior to the 1977 Flood, Hornerstown was home to specialty metal-casters, lumberyards, industrial suppliers, and others. In the wake of the flood, and a downturn in the local economy, many businesses did not reopen their doors with others suffering significant damage. Since that time the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority has taken steps to provide financing to businesses and make available new sites for business as well as promoting the reuse of existing buildings for new/relocating industries.
New Businesses and Business Expansions that have resulted from the Authority’s efforts are:

  • Auto Zone
  • Team Motors
  • Johnstown Chemical
  • Raynor Garage Doors
  • Airco Gas & Welding

Available Sites in the Hornerstown Industrial Park Are:

  • CSX Freight Yard
  • Johnstown Planing Mill
  • Team Motors

Cambria Iron Works

The Cambria Iron Lower Works is the oldest iron and steel industry site in Johnstown; first developed in 1848 by Daniel J. Morrell as part of the Cambria Iron Company, the Lower Works passed through the hands of Andrew Carnegie, Charles Schwab, and eventually on to the Bethlehem Steel Company.  At the height of the steel industry in Johnstown, mills spread out over 13 miles along the Conemaugh, Little Conemaugh, and Stonycreek Rivers.  Johnstown’s mills created rails for western railroads, plate, girders, axles, and structural steel and operated as a model for the industry up until the 1980s when the steel industry was hit by tough overseas economic competition. Johnstown saw its population drop from 63,232 to its current day 23,906. Over 12,000 people lost their jobs when the mills closed in 1992, from a town that once produced 2,000,000 tons of steel per year, to today’s level of zero.

For more on the history of steelmaking in Johnstown, visit the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

In 1989 the National Park Service identified the Cambria Ironworks Complex as a National Historic Landmark, one of only two American steel mills to have received this designation.  Studies by the National Park Service and the Historic American Engineering Record have recognized the Cambria Iron Works site as one of the most historically significant steel mills in the United States.

In January of 1998, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority purchased three buildings within the Cambria Iron Lower Works, including the Carpenter Shop, Machine Shop, and Blacksmith Shop, from the Bethlehem Steel Company after several years of lengthy negotiations. Both parties hoped that this effort would form the basis for full-scale commercial and industrial redevelopment at the Lower Works. In order to begin the restoration process and attract business, the properties needed to be remediated of environmental concerns left behind from years of industrial use.

In 2003, the Authority gained title to ten acres of land within the Cambria Iron Lower Works, including the land on which the Machine Shop, Carpenter Shop, Blacksmith Shop and Electrical Storage Building sit. This transaction also gave the Authority title to the Electric Storage Building , the Historic Pedestrian Footbridge, the Guardshacks and the Rolling Mill Office.

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority is undertaking an eclectic mix of redevelopment initiatives to transform the former Cambria Ironworks into a revitalized complex, blending 21st Century businesses with historical structures.  Due to environmental regulations and concerns for public health and safety, hazardous materials and substances that were a result of the buildings’ industrial past needed to be remediated as part of renovation/restoration efforts.

Over 13 separate federal, state, and local funding sources contributed to the completion of this project. The Cambria Iron Works Site was also designated a Brownfield Action Team (BAT) site, one of the first in the Commonwealth.

The Machine Shop

The Machine Shop is a large heavy steel frame structure with non-bearing brick walls, large wood frame windows, and glazed roof monitors built by Cambria Steel Company.  Historically used to machine parts for the rolling mill and blast furnaces of the Cambria Iron Complex, the Machine Shop contains twelve overhead cranes and 40,000 square feet. From its completion in 1906 throughout the 1970s, the Machine Shop employed as many as 400 men in a single shift. All environmental assessment and remediation was completed by December 2003. Basic infrastructure repairs have been made to the building, such as the access and installation of utilities to the building from mainlines, as well as a new roof, floor, and overhead doors. The Authority is currently working to install rail access into the building. Over 13 separate federal, state, and local funding sources contributed to the completion of this project. The Machine Shop is home to a joint-venture, Johnstown Plate.

The Carpenter Shop

Historically known as the Pattern Shop, the Carpenter Shop was built circa 1870 and is a two-story brick bearing wall structure with wood frame floor and roof construction.  The Carpenter Shop was originally used to make wooden patterns for castings in the adjacent foundry that serviced the Iron Works. Restoration work was completed on the Carpenter Shop in December of 2003.

The Blacksmith Shop

The earliest surviving building of the Cambria Iron Works, the Blacksmith Shop was erected circa 1864. Located within the ten-acre Cambria Iron Works Complex, the Blacksmith Shop is the most historically significant of the structures. Originally owned by the Cambria Iron Company, the Blacksmith Shop produced a wide range of metal products throughout the 19 th and 20 th centuries. With the decline of the steel industry and the closing of Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1992, the Blacksmith Shop has since been vacant.

The Blacksmith Shop is a large brick structure that was constructed in at least five stages. The original building is octagonal shaped with an octagonal cupola, containing heavy timbered roof trusses with iron tension rods, common-bond red brick walls and pilasters. In the 1870s, a rectangular wing was added to the west elevation and in 1885 another wing was added on the east elevation. It retains a full complement of original turn-of-the-century forging and smithing tools and a variety of steam-powered hammers, including a ten-ton steam hammer owned by the Smithsonian Institute and leased to the Redevelopment Authority .

The Blacksmith Shop is the cornerstone in an interpretive and visitor development plan for Johnstown and the Allegheny Ridge State Heritage Park. These plans anticipate that the Blacksmith Shop will be the keystone of a visitor infrastructure where working artisans will perform their craft to give tourists a firsthand look at the art of blacksmithing and Johnstown’s steelmaking heritage – not simply a museum, but a working blacksmith shop.

Initial stabilization efforts encompassed critical roof repairs, sealing of openings, and repointing of collapsing brickwork. Environmental remediation and historical restoration are to be undertaken in the fall of 2006. Funding sources include U.S. EPA Brownfield Cleanup, U.S. Department of Interior National Park Service Save America’s Treasures, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program, Westsylvania Heritage Corporation and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Electrical Storage Building

Also known as the Blast Engine House for the Cambria Iron Furnaces No. 1-4, the Electrical Storage Building, c. 1873, is a 20,000 square foot building with common-bond brick walls and pilasters, wrought iron, pin-connected Pratt roof trusses, and arched door and window openings. The Engine House continued in service through the 1950s and served as storage thereafter.

The initial phase of remediation was completed in April 2005. Additional remediation and repairs are being performed as this building is now home to Pipelines Inc.

Johnstown Urban Greenway trail

The Johnstown Urban Greenway Trail is a 0.8-mile trail which was completed in January of 2004.  The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, constructed the trail.  It is located along the Conemaugh River, running along Iron St. from Johns St. to the Cambria Iron Pedestrian Bridge.  Since the trail is built along the Conemaugh River Wall, part of the Army Corps of Engineers Johnstown Local Flood Protection project, visitor orientation along the trail includes signage depicting the history and development of the river walls. The Urban Greenway Trail is part of the Path of the Flood Trail currently under development.

The initial phase of remediation was completed in April 2005. Additional remediation and repairs are being performed as this building is now home to Aspen Fluid Logistics.

The Cambria Iron Works Pedestrian Footbridge & Guardhouses

From as early as the 1850s, a number of railroad and wagon bridges spanned the Conemaugh River at or near the site of the current Cambria Iron Works Pedestrian Footbridge. These earlier bridges had been removed by the late 1930s, most likely washed away by the flood of 1936. In their place, Bethlehem Steel erected a two-span pedestrian bridge, the easternmost section of which survives today. This bridge over the Conemaugh River served as a pedestrian crosswalk for workers entering and leaving the Bethlehem Steel Mills. The western portion of the historic bridge, as we see it today, was rebuilt after the 1977 Flood.

Remediation and restoration efforts included the rehabilitation of the historic eastern span and the replacement of the western span with a structure that replicates the historic eastern span. The landing at Roosevelt Boulevard was reconstructed to make it handicap accessible and the bridge canopy, columns, railings, turnstile gates, and fencing were remediated and replaced.

Funding for this project included EPA Brownfield Cleanup, DEP Remediation, PennDOT Transportation Enhancement, and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The Authority is also in the planning stages of remediation and design for the adjacent Cambria Iron Guardhouse, as well as the two other guardhouses at the Minersville and Iron Street entrances. These edifices were formerly used as guardhouses by Bethlehem Steel and will be used for visitor orientation during the various events planned for the Festival Park and new Point Stadium, including Johnstown Folk Fest, Thunder in the Valley, AAABA and future concerts and activities at the Stadium.

The completion of the Cambria Iron Pedestrian Bridge Project will result in the extension of the Johnstown Urban Greenway Trail across the Conemaugh River into the historic Cambria City neighborhood and a more user-friendly recreation opportunity. This project will allow festival goers to easily travel by foot from the Cambria City Ethnic Festival to the Johnstown FolkFest Festival!

Downtown Revitalization

For decades the Glosser Building served as home to Glosser Brothers, a major department store for the Greater Johnstown Region. In the downtown, the Glosser Building is centrally located at the intersection of Franklin and Locust Streets. It has an aesthetically pleasing view of Central Park and is in close proximity to a variety of services. But in the late 1980’s, when it could no longer compete with the suburban shopping malls, the store was closed and the building was abandoned.

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, in anticipation that the building would be reused, purchased the adjacent parking lots to the Glosser Building. The availability of parking would make the redevelopment and reuse of the Glosser Building much more amenable. This proved to be the case when the building was eventually transferred to the Cambria County Commissioners, who made a decision to renovate the building to create a multi-use site. The Authority was able to provide the parking lots to the County for use with the new office/educational/government facility they created in the renovated Glosser Building. Today the Glosser building houses several commercial retailers, a restaurant, a branch of Cambria County Community College, and Government offices.

In 1999, a $3.5 million Social Security headquarters and service center was built on Washington Street, representing a victory for community and business leaders in the battle to keep Social Security operations in downtown Johnstown. A new $3.5 million Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare building was also constructed on upper Main Street, keynoting the drive to redevelop the area adjoining Main Street East, an earlier Redevelopment Authority project. These two projects helped to retain 150 jobs in the City, as well as create nearly 40 new jobs. Both sites are owned by private developers, keeping the new buildings in taxation.

Please visit www.discoverjohnstown.org for current downtown revitalization effort updates.

Kernville TIF Project

In 1991 the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority became the FIRST agency in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to use the newly authorized Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District to fund acquisition, demolition, and public infrastructure improvements for a redevelopment project. The TIF provided the means to finance clearance of slums and create a prime commercial site.

The Kernville block chosen for the district was an entrance area to the Johnstown Central Business District that was locally known as Robb Alley.  Despite State and Federal assistance for housing renovations in the aftermath of the 1977 flood, the block still consisted of largely substandard rental properties owned by absentee landlords.

This Kernville block was notorious as one of the most blighted in the City. These before photos show several typical derelict structures located in Robb Alley. These multi-unit wood frame structures were built side by side and posed severe dangers to public health.

Drs. Stephen Benko and Joel Borkow, Plastic Surgical Associates, became the first to make an investment in the new block. Their actions demonstrated a confidence that permitted the Developer, Berkebile Construction, to finalize agreements for the construction of three additional businesses.

Since the first project phase, three additional businesses have built in the Kernville TIF area.  Hite Electric was able to build a first class modern show room and supply center for electrical equipment, The White Star Personal Care Facility has opened a three story project and a home nursing business was established.  The project is complete but additional land on the opposite side of the overpass could be cleared for a significant project.

In the summer of 1998, a Motel 6 was opened on the site, completing development of the main construction area.  Relocation of the historic Myton House made this possible (see Historic Preservation).

Because TIF financing relies on the taxes paid by new construction to finance necessary infrastructure improvements, the first construction created the ability to complete each successive development.  We have provided a copy of the Tax Increment Finance Law for those interested.

Haynes Street & Walter R. Myton House

Haynes Street, a heavily traveled link between the East and West Hills areas connects Menoher Boulevard (SR 271) with the Johnstown Expressway (SR 56). In the 1980s, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began plans to widen Haynes Street from a narrow two-lane corridor into a three-lane corridor with turning lanes.

PennDOT designed and bid the road improvements but as local sponsor, the City of Johnstown was responsible for acquisition of additional land and relocation of utilities. The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority acted as the agent for the City in conducting local sponsor activities in the widening of Haynes Street.

In obtaining the necessary rights-of-way, several buildings needed to be acquired and demolished. One of these properties, on the corner of Haynes and Napoleon Streets, was an outstanding example of turn of the century architectural design by local architect Walter R. Myton. The house was built in 1902 for Daniel Judy, who was the general superintendent of the Cambria Iron Works. The style of the house is colonial revival, with Queen Anne influences.

When the house was slated to be acquired and demolished, the Authority worked with Attorney Richard Russell to save the structure. Attorney Russell purchased the home in 1983 and funds were found for some of the relocation cost (in lieu of demolition). The Redevelopment Authority made excess land not needed for the relocation available and the house was moved 150 feet to clear the newly widened street. The improvement created by clearance and improvement of the structure at this end of the block generated an interest that in the space of a few years led to a plan to renovate the whole block using Tax Increment Financing.

The Redevelopment Authority is also actively involved with historic preservation work at the National Historic Landmark Cambria Iron Works Lower Works Complex.  To read more about activities at Cambria Iron check out the Lower Cambria Project page.

The Kernville block chosen for the district was an entrance area to the Johnstown Central Business District that was locally known as Robb Alley.  Despite State and Federal assistance for housing renovations in the aftermath of the 1977 flood, the block still consisted of largely substandard rental properties owned by absentee landlords.

This Kernville block was notorious as one of the most blighted in the City. These before photos show several typical derelict structures located in Robb Alley. These multi-unit wood frame structures were built side by side and posed severe dangers to public health.

Drs. Stephen Benko and Joel Borkow, Plastic Surgical Associates, became the first to make an investment in the new block. Their actions demonstrated a confidence that permitted the Developer, Berkebile Construction, to finalize agreements for the construction of three additional businesses.

Since the first project phase, three additional businesses have built in the Kernville TIF area.  Hite Electric was able to build a first class modern show room and supply center for electrical equipment, The White Star Personal Care Facility has opened a three story project and a home nursing business was established.  The project is complete but additional land on the opposite side of the overpass could be cleared for a significant project.

In the summer of 1998, a Motel 6 was opened on the site, completing development of the main construction area.  Relocation of the historic Myton House made this possible (see Historic Preservation).

Because TIF financing relies on the taxes paid by new construction to finance necessary infrastructure improvements, the first construction created the ability to complete each successive development.  We have provided a copy of the Tax Increment Finance Law for those interested.

Dornick Point Secondary Treatment Upgrade

The Redevelopment Authority began assisting the City of Johnstown in 1986 with its planned upgrade to the Dornick Point (Greater Johnstown) Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant had been providing primary treatment (separation of solids) since its construction in 1961. The United States EPA had ordered the upgrade of the plant in 1976, however the project was indefinitely delayed following the catastrophic flood of July 19-20, 1977.

The City negotiated a consent decree with the USEPA in Federal Court in late 1987. The order called for a nine-month design period and a 24-month construction period. The City delegated financing and construction to the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority. PENNVEST, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, loaned $30 million to the City for the project. During the first nine months the condition of the existing collection system and treatment alternatives were evaluated and a design selected. The design was submitted and approved by the Pennsylvania DEP and construction began.

Beginning in 1990, the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority maintained all oversight and management of the operations of the City Bureau of Sewage. Plant construction was completed 1992 and the new plant was placed online.

From the beginning, problems in the system were discovered. During the same time period as the construction, over $7 million of the $30 million was spent in upgrading the main interceptor transmission lines through the City.

During the construction project additional problems were identified in the operational aspects of the system. Unidentified restaurants in the downtown area had made a practice of dumping cooking grease into the sanitary sewers to such an extent that the main conveyance siphons (3 separate pipes) under the Stonycreek River were blocked with plugs of grease more than 20 feet in length. A new ordinance and some work with the City plumbing inspector curbed this problem.

A large amount of billing delinquencies had also accrued in the Department of Sewage. The Authority instituted a water shut-off program in conjunction with a new policy to secure payment agreements. Since its institution, the amount of current delinquencies has dropped and several hundred thousands of dollars have been collected from the older delinquent accounts.

1977 Flood Recovery Efforts

Previous redevelopment efforts would pale in comparison to the new struggle facing Johnstown after the 1977 flood, a flood whose rampaging waters were to leave the City with nearly 100 dead and millions of dollars in property damage – home and businesses destroyed or damaged.

But Johnstown, as it did in the floods of 1889 and 1936, went to work, with the Redevelopment Authority playing a vital role in recovery efforts.

The Authority worked to relocate families and businesses, to acquire homes ravaged by the flood to rehabilitate housing. In all, the Authority handled nearly 2,500 claims, totaling more than $20 million obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs under a $50 million Flood Recovery Bond Issue.

The authority had to ‘recreate’ the flood devastated properties – using old pictures and educated estimates. The authority had to prepare a redevelopment plan for the land before the owner could be compensated.

Hundreds of victims were relocated; 300 damaged homes were demolished, other were rehabilitated with reimbursement grants.

Private enterprise went to work, to, and a determined U.S. Bank, for example, went ahead with a huge expansion project in the fall of 1977, building a five-story addition at the corner of Main and Franklin Streets, tying in with the 12-story original structure at a cost of $7 million. That faith in the downtown helped spur flood recovery efforts.

For more information on Johnstown’s major floods, visit the Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

Main Street East 

The Main Street East Project was to anchor uptown development on approximately three acres of land, embracing 17 parcels. It was proposed as a “major revitalization to a much-ignored sector of the center city”. Work proceeded on demolition, with plans for a department store and office complex. But what was planned, and what later became a reality, were totally different.

The Main Street East Project came to a halt with the 1977 Flood.

As the 1980s began, the Main Street East project grew into the first major new construction program in that portion of the downtown area in more than 50 years. The land was turned over by the Authority to a joint venture development, proposed by the Economic Development Corporation of the Johnstown Area Regional Industries, a private business group formed in 1973 in the aftermath of the Bethlehem Steel announcement of massive job layoffs; the Cambria County Transit Authority, which was to develop a modern transit center; and the Johnstown Parking Authority, for a 350 space parking garage with retail businesses around the perimeter.

The giant office-transit center-parking garage was completed in 1981 at an overall cost of approximately $6 million, including monies obtained through an Urban Development Action Grant, one of the first in the country, and from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Market Street West

In 1960, while the Cambria City Project was being implemented, Dr. Walters, then Mayor, and the new Redevelopment Authority began to work on a plan for the revitalization of the Downtown area.  The initial redevelopment project encompassed 11.8 acres of land bounded by Main, Market, Napoleon, and Walnut Streets. 

The funding of the Market Street West Project was allocated under Title I Urban Renewal Project, which provides for financial assistance from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the State Department of Community Affairs, and the City of Johnstown.

Most of the project area was the victim to a slow and steady transition from single-family to multi-tenant occupancy of its residential buildings while small stores and professional offices sprang up.  The area was congested with narrow alleys and lacked parking, and had seen little new construction since the 1930’s.

Clearance activities in the Market Street West Urban Renewal Area included the acquisition of 126 parcels of real estate, the relocation of 150 families, 136 individuals, and 72 business concerns.

Work began on the project with the receipt of Federal Urban Development funds in 1967.  Developments in the project area include:

  • Centre Town Mall – grocery and small shops
  • Walnut Dwellings – attractive townhouses
  • Zamias Office Building
  • Johnstown Savings Bank Plaza ( Now Lee Hospital Administration)
  • Crown American’s Sheraton Inn (Now Holiday Inn)
  • Joseph Johns Towers
  • Cambria Somerset Chapter of the American Red Cross

Michael P. Flynn, then Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority, wrote in an annual report to City Council, “The Redevelopment Authority realizes that … the project … plays a small part in the total rejuvenation activities of the Central Business District, but we firmly believe that it is a step toward the ultimate goal (renewal of all downtown) and perhaps, will act as a stimulant to the entire metropolitan area.”

In all, private businesses spent $14,549,000.00 in construction and 700 new jobs were created.

Cambria City Renewal 

The Cambria City neighborhood was one of the original boroughs incorporated into the City of Johnstown in 1889. This historic neighborhood has been called the Ellis Island of Johnstown. It served as the local entry for thousands of Europeans who migrated here to work in the steel mills… Germans, Irish, Poles, Slovenians, Croatians, Hungarians, etc. These immigrants built a rich ethnic heritage that is still visible today.

In the 1940’s, many of the old homes, company houses, of the early immigration period were near ruin. Twenty-five percent of the homes had outhouses and no running water. More than 2,500 people lived on 24 acres of ground.

The City Planning Commission certified Cambria City for renewal in August of 1953 and a few months later the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority submitted its first application to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The renewal project covered a little less than one-half of the area of Cambria City. The renewal area covered the south side of Broad Street from Ninth Avenue to Branch Street on Roosevelt Boulevard. It was divided into two phases: B-1, the east end, and B-2 the west end.

The Authority received a small cash advance from the Federal Government and began final studies in 1954. The final study included property appraisals. The project disturbed many residents, past and present, and landlords in the area. In response to complaints the Johnstown City Council claimed that it had no knowledge of the project. In the opinion of Washington, the scope of the project was too limited and, ” Johnstown was not facing up to the whole process of urban decay and undertaking long range programs directed at its prevention.” The project came to a screeching halt and the Redevelopment Authority plan was abandoned.

In 1958 Johnstown tried again. A new board and new director, Rexford Glaspey, was appointed to the Redevelopment Authority. A more in depth application was submitted to and approved by HUD. Contracts to implement the project were let in 1959. The State and Federal Governments approved a total of 3 million dollars for Cambria City Projects in 1959.

In 1960, the new city mayor, Dr. George Walter, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, appointed a new Executive Director, Michael Flynn, and Board for the Redevelopment Authority. Mr. Flynn and the Board Chairman, Warren Reitz, proceeded with the project. Forty properties were acquired by June of 1960. The City and Authority were again faced by dissension on the part of residents but this time, a popular young mayor and solid planning allowed the project to proceed.

By 1963 the area was cleared and the process of finding new businesses to locate in the project area began. Over the next several years, the following businesses developed in Cambria City:

  • Pennsylvania Electric Company Headquarters
  • General Telephone Company
  • Bestform Manufacturing (Now Senior Life)
  • Westinghouse Electric Supply
  • Hayduk Thiele Car Dealership (Now a U-Haul Rental)
  • Minute Car Wash
  • Better Tires (Now Laurel Management Company)
  • Thackray Supply Inc.

When the Cambria City Project was closed out in 1967, new construction totaled $10 million dollars, 600 new jobs were created and taxes from the area to the City were increased by $20,000.00.