THE RIDC HAS DONATED the Business Innovation Center building in Duquesne to the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. (Photo courtesy RIDC)
by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer
Urban League President and CEO Esther Bush loves old buildings, and now she has a new one to love. Last month the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) of Southwestern Pennsylvania donated its Business Innovation Center building in Duquesne to the Urban League.
Built at the end of the 1800s, it was originally the office building for Carnegie Steel. Since being acquired by the RIDC in 1988, it has filled a number of purposes, primarily as an incubator for start-up firms, but it also provided space for social service agencies—the Urban League has operated one of its three Family Resource Centers there for more than two decades.
“We’ve been in that building for 25 years. We were the last tenant in the building,” Bush told the New Pittsburgh Courier. “We’re looking forward to providing additional social services—not just the Urban League’s, but from other providers who are looking to expand their services to the Mon Valley. It’s an opportunity to strengthen what we’re doing.”
The Duquesne Family Support Center, like the Urban League’s two others in Northview Heights and East Hills, focuses on strengthening families with children ages 0 to 5.
“We provide the kind of support to make sure kids are ready for school, things like immunizations, early childhood development programming,” Bush said. “We assist families with any issue that could help make them better parents, try to expose them to different programs and opportunities they might not be aware of that could benefit them, and of course, upgrading employment opportunities.”
Bush said she isn’t yet sure how much more of the three-story, 14,512 square-foot building her agency will use.
“We’ll use some, but we look forward to leasing space to other providers. We are looking to positively impact the community,” she said. “Our forums and seminars will expand there also. (And) we’re going to continue to serve Allegheny County with a focus on Pittsburgh’s Hill District, Homewood and North Side, and the Mon Valley—it needs more attention than it receives now.”
And while the building itself will at some point need attention, Bush said it is in good shape, especially considering its age.
“This one is very nice. It’s stately. There’s a second-floor conference room where one entire wall is solid wood, and it has a lot of period detail,” she said. “But what is the lifetime of the AC, of the furnace? So, like any building it needs maintenance. So in addition to expanding our services, we do have to look for grants and do fundraising to upgrade the facilities. But we are very appreciative of RIDC, which was very patient with us. They want to make sure we are successful.”
RIDC president Donald Smith told the Courier that was the point of donating the building.
“I think it’s an important resource in a community that really needs it, it was important for the services to be maintained for the people and the surrounding communities,” he said. “We’ve been invested in that community for quite some time and it’s a community that has weathered some economic challenges. The good work that the Urban League is doing and working with community members is important in that community.”
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