Iron Bridge Crossings welcomes former residents home

Dana 2Story by Keren Lee Dreyer

During its rail yard and coking heyday of the early 1940s, Brownsville’s main thoroughfare, Market Street – a.k.a. “The Neck” – was host to numerous shops, boutiques, and a favorite department store of the area, G.C. Murphy.

With a peak population of around 8,000 at that time, the area’s boom was ground to bust by the ensuing decades of a post-industrial southwest Pennsylvania. Once handsome and familiar shops became neglected and dilapidated, including the Murphy building, creating a baleful presence along the previously bustling “Neck.”

Community groups in the area sought help from TREK Development Group in Downtown Pittsburgh for their expertise and experience in community redevelopment, support services, property management, and more.

Once in Brownsville, TREK, working with the area’s historic community, determined that the historic G.C. Murphy building deserved a second chance at becoming the downtown core’s premier location, only this time as affordable senior housing. “Feeding off the excitement and hard work of the students who envisioned and developed the new amphitheater, this location was the perfect choice. We are grateful the community and its leaders welcomed and worked with us to redevelop this site” said Trek Senior Project Manager, Trey Barbour.

With construction and renovation completed in January of this year, the former G.C. Murphy building, dubbed Iron Bridge Crossings, again hosts some of those who frequented its doors in their youth.

During the Iron Bridge Crossings open house, Dana McFarland, TREK Development Group Community Manager, heard first-hand tales about the building and area from those who came to visit, and some who would come to stay. “People came in on open house day and told stories,” McFarland said, including a man who built model planes there, another who used to buy penny candy, and one more who shared “memories of mom and dad coming into G.C. Murphy to get stuff. It was really neat.”

A new resident of Iron Bridge Crossings, whose family had owned jewelry stores in Brownsville, came back from Ohio to be “closer to friends and family” McFarland said. “A lot of people were born and bred in Brownsville and, having been away, are now coming back.”

Those coming back are finding signs of life along Market Street, including the new Snowden Square and its Cast Iron Amphitheatre, just across from the Crossings, and a pharmacy conveniently located next door. A number of churches, historic sites, and “mom and pop” businesses also wait to greet these prodigal residents.

Dana 4Seniors age 62 and up whose income is at or below 60% of the area’s median income are invited to apply for residence at the remaining units in Iron Bridge Crossings. All who move in discover TREK Development’s thoughtful amenities, including an indoor, heated garage with automatic doors, an elevator, community room with full kitchen for events with supportive services, Christmas dinners, and more, on site laundry, and importantly, on site management. Additionally, rooftop decks afford views of the amphitheatre on one side and a river view on the other.

Each apartment in the secured, handicap accessible building is equipped with an electric range, refrigerator, dishwasher, and garbage disposal, and also includes additional on site storage. Residents are free to purchase their own microwave.

While all units are wired for cable television and internet service, available by subscription, all other utilities are included. And with 688 – 1,039 sq ft of floor space for a single bedroom, and 1,379 sq ft for a two bedroom unit, there is a size to fit most needs. Finally, travel via bus is easy because McFarland herself arranged a bus stop right in front of the building, meaning residents can wait under cover.

Nice as the apartments and amenities are, McFarland is most pleased to see former residents return to the area by choosing Iron Bridge Crossings as their new home. “They love it here. Everybody I have here so far absolutely loves it…The majority used to live here, and I think it brings back good memories when they’re out front, sitting there talking about where they used to go.” They’re thankful McFarland said, adding the words of one resident “I’m so glad you did this. You brought us home.”

To learn about qualifying for residence at Iron Bridge Crossings, call Dana McFarland at 724-602-0083 or 724-225-3080

Photos by Margie McKinley