People’s Union Bank & Trust Company Building

Commercial / Pennsylvania

The People’s Union Bank & Trust Company Building in McKeesport, Pennsylvania is the former home of the People’s Bank & Trust Company and professional offices.


History

Peoples Union Bank & Trust Company was founded in McKeesport on January 1, 1872. 4 Needing larger quarters, the bank constructed an eight-story tower at Walnut Street and 5th Avenue in 1906 which contained 21 teller windows on the first floor and the vault in the basement. Professional offices for attorneys, dentists, and doctors, along with city council chambers and city offices, were located on the upper floors. 2 3 The city offices relocated to a dedicated city-owned building in 1958. 3

People’s Union Bank & Trust merged into The Union National Bank of Pittsburgh on January 2, 1970, and then into Integra National Bank on August 23, 1991. 4 After voicing concerns with the building’s condition, Integra vacated the Peoples Union Bank building in 1993, moving into the First National Bank of McKeesport building across the street. 5 The relocation led to an exodus of upper floor tenants. 4

Redevelopment

In 1996, Mayor Joseph Bendel negotiated with Integra to donate the landmark building to the city, to reuse it as a small business incubator. 3 The bank donated $1 million to the city so that it could make repairs to the aging boiler and the wiring system on two floors. 9

The city relocated the treasurer’s office 9 into the newly renamed People’s Building. 2 The tower later held offices for the city’s redevelopment authority, social service agencies, and Echostar. 9

Despite an occupancy rate of nearly 70%, Bendel’s successor, Wayne Kucich, sold The People’s Building to Strong Partners, 7 controlled by Regis Possino of Pacific Palisades, California, 3 for $600,000 in 2003. 7 9 Possino, working through developer Vincent Garcia, proposed converting the Peoples Building into condominiums. Shortly after acquiring the tower, Strong Partners sold the building for $2 million to its parent company, Geneva Equities.

In June 2005, the state Department of Revenue attached a $22,000 lien to the People’s Building for unpaid transfer taxes. 7 8 After a water line froze and burst on the fourth floor in December, the next-to-last tenant, the city’s treasury department, moved out.

In February 2006, Pissino discussed his intention to donate the People’s Building to Rio Grande Studios. 7 The New Mexico charity trained people to work in the New Mexico film industry. It had hoped to convert the building into apartments to deliver a steady stream of income.

By 2006, Possino had defaulted on the People’s Building’s mortgage and a sheriff’s sale was set for May. 8 9 After making amends, Possino put the all-but-vacant office building up for auction on the internet in March 2008 with an asking price of $595,000. 6 The property was acquired by Lily and Lin Lum from New York City for $645,000 on June 16, 2008. 9

The Lums acquired the property intending to move to the Pittsburgh area, but the plans of converting the building into residential units and offices did not come to fruition. 3 The couple put the empty building up for sale in January 2018 for $400,000.

In August, the city condemned the building, listing numerous health and safety violations, including faulty water pipes that were at risk of breaking. 3 The People’s Building was acquired by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport for $1. 2

Jonathan Stark purchased the former People’s Union Bank building from the city’s redevelopment authority in June 2019. 1 2 Stark has proposed rehabilitating the vacant tower into offices.


Gallery


Sources

  1. “McKeesport’s old People’s Bank building may soon get new life.” WPXI [Pittsburgh], 7 Jun. 2019.
  2. Togyer, Jason. “People’s Building Has a Buyer; New Owner Already at Work.” Tube City Almanac, 6 Jun 2019.
  3. Togyer, Jason. “McKeesport’s ‘Crown Jewel’ Prepared for Sale.” Tube City Almanac, 19 Jan. 2018.
  4. Peoples Union Bank and Trust Company.” US Bank Locations.
  5. Cloonan, Patrick. “Empty Buildings Part 2: Old banks dot city landscape.” TribLive, 26 Apr. 2010.
  6. “The Briefs.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 Mar. 2008, p. S6.
  7. Barnes, Jonathan. “Peoples Building woes continue.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 30 Mar. 2006, p. EZ-5.
  8. Barnes, Jonathan. “Peoples Building plan still chatted up.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 30 Mar. 2006, p. S-7.
  9. Balingit, Moriah. “Building owner has fingers crossed.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 Jul. 2008, p. S-7.