Universal Atlas Cement, a former division of United States Steel Corporation, is a former cement plant in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. It closed in 1979.
Universal Atlas Cement was completed in Penn Hills in 1906. 2
Work to modernize the Universal Atlas Plant began in 1953 by United States Steel. 2 Plans included replacing 38 smokestacks with two and installing dust collectors and electrostatic precipitators to reduce smoke and dust. Additionally, four aging buildings were replaced with three new ones. The project was wrapped up in 1955.
Glass dust collectors on the raw material blending bins and cement storage silos were installed in 1971. 6 Additional dust collectors were installed during a plant shutdown in February and March 1972. 5 The new collectors reduced the amount of dust emissions by 96%. Heretofore, the plant had been emitting as much as 24 tons of cement dust per day. A new clinker drying facility was installed later in the year. 6
United States Steel announced drastic cutbacks at 16 plants affecting 13,000 workers on November 27, 1979. 7 Included in the notice was Universal Atlas Cement, impacting 180 employees. 4 7 The company also idled two Universal Atlas locations in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania and Buffington, Indiana. 4 The remaining six plants amounted to $150 million in annual revenues.
United States Steel announced on February 15, 1980 that it intended to sell its Universal Atlas Cement division to Lehigh Portland Cement Company, a subsidiary of Heidelberger Zement A.G. of Heidelberg, Germany. 4 The sale was completed on September 8 for $100 million. 3
Lehigh sold the land to MM&G Associates Inc., a used equipment and sales company, in 1993 for $300,000. 8 9 The equipment was sold to MM&G for $200,000. 9 MM&G planned to sell all the equipment on the property, demolish the buildings and sell the cleaned property to a developer. MM&G hired two separate demolition contractors but one firm absconded with the money while another declared bankruptcy. Equipment that was sold went to a Columbian cement company that refused to make payment.
MM&G also refused to make payments on property taxes. 10 A sheriff’s sale was scheduled for November 6, 2006 but it was averted when Erekson Corporation of Salt Lake City, Utah agreed to acquire MM&G. The total cost of the abandoned cement plant and 206 acres of land, in addition to $500,000 delinquent taxes, came to over $1 million. 1 Erekson proposed an upscale development consisting of 250 1,700 square-foot single-family residences and a light industrial park. 1 10
Erekson later averted a sheriff’s sale of the property by filing for bankruptcy. 1 The company made only one payment on a six month bridge loan before defaulting. It also did not pay property taxes on the land, which amounted to $25,000 for 2007 and 2008.