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The Roxian Theatre is Awarded the 2019 ULI Catalytic Place Award!

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On Friday, October 18th, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) in Pittsburgh awarded The Roxian Theatre with their Catalytic Place Award during the 7th Annual Placemaking Awards for Excellence.

The Placemaking Awards for Excellence is an annual event that provides ULI the opportunity to formally recognize outstanding projects, achievements and leaders in our city who are committed to the creation and celebration of “place.”

The Catalytic Place honor and award is given to a project that is recognized as a place that best generates improvement and progress to the economic development and/or standard of living in a surrounding community. The Roxian Theatre embodies these characteristics, truly serving as a catalyst for positive community development and  change in McKees Rocks.

We’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate and honor the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation and the full Roxian Live team on this incredible accomplishment and much deserved recognition of years of hard work and dedication to seeing the project come to fruition!

The Story of the Roxian Theatre and How It’s Catalyzing the Development and Revitalization of the Sto-Rox Community

In 2017, local entrepreneur John Pergal, owner of Lawrenceville’s Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, and several partners in a public-private partnership bought the Roxian Theatre from the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (MRCDC) with intentions of renovating the existing vacant, 1920’s-era Art Deco vaudeville theatre to its former grandeur.

In 2011, to set the literal stage for this renovation, the MRCDC acquired the then vacant Roxian Theatre, located at the heart of the McKees Rocks business district in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Between 2012-2017, the MRCDC owned and maintained the theatre and completed improvement projects like façade restoration and reclaiming the original layout of the building’s entryway. The next two years were spent raising over $9 million from local foundations and other funders to fulfill a vision long held by the project team–to renovate and restore the vacant theatre and historic landmark into a modern music venue and a cornerstone of downtown McKees Rocks revitalization efforts.

Today, the Roxian Theatre is open and fully operational, hosting artists that have typically bypassed Pittsburgh for lack of a suitable venue. In addition to filling that venue void, the theatre itself embraces the spirit of the McKees Rocks community it calls home while standing out with preserved and polished architectural feature. The renovated floor area was designed to allow ease of movement within the ample space. It’s split by a two-step staircase that leads to a lower level directly in front of the stage, creating immaculate sightlines from any angle. There’s not a beam, rafter, wall or support between you and your perfect view of the stage.

The importance of this venue to McKees Rocks cannot be overstated. With a capacity of 1,470, McKees Rocks is now a destination that will bring a herd of hungry concertgoers to the neighborhood. The Roxian is a game changer for the Sto-Rox community. In just the first few months of being open, it has sparked new business development, residential growth, new recreational opportunities and the creation of jobs for the community’s residents. 

Project Impact:

MRCDC leveraged the completion of the Roxian to successfully request a $1.9M grant from PennDOT, to add to the $1.1M of funds that it has already attracted, to complete the first phase of a downtown streetscape reconstruction project. The $3.5M first phase will rebuild a redesigned roadway and public right-of-ways from the Chartiers Creek bridge on Linden Street to McDonalds Way and will include new sidewalks, pedestrian amenities, lighting, bike and transit facilities, smart signalization, stormwater management features, and separated sewer systems, amongst other things.

A local entrepreneur purchased a long-standing nuisance bar across the street from the Roxian to convert it into a small-scale jazz venue, called Rocks Landing, with New Orleans style food and an outdoor beer garden.

A successful local coffeeshop and micro music venue from a City of Pittsburgh neighborhood also  purchased a building in the business district to turn into its second location in McKees Rocks. This new location for Black Forge increases their capacity several times over as they plan to become a strong addition to the downtown’s burgeoning entertainment focus. Black Forge also expanded its services into this location with a kitchen for new prepared food, to retail at this shop, as well as in-house coffee roasting.

MRCDC was active in purchasing the largest available developable properties around the Roxian Theatre in order to optimize the potential of future development on these sites. Three sizable properties, totaling almost 1.5 acres of vacant land in the downtown area and all within a couple hundred feet of the new theater, stand out as prime infill development opportunities to build off of, and complement, the Roxian and the increased draw of activity to the area. Redevelopment of these properties follows the community generated downtown master plan. Two of these properties are directly on the main street and infill of these vacant parcels will largely rebuild the business district corridor on Lower Chartiers Avenue. With the Roxian coming online, there is a great deal of interest in these parcels and The MRCDC is confident in moving them forward with a development partner in the future. The MRCDC’s approach to this will include a community process to generate standards to which the development will adhere. Redevelopment of these properties will happen in partnership with the Roxian’s ownership group, with whom MRCDC has entered into agreement to facilitate complementary development around their sizable investment in the theater.

The Roxian Theater is also going to have a major impact on the development of the public space along Chartiers Creek, with anticipated attention being given to creek access, but more specifically to the connection being worked on to build a creek crossing into an expanded Sheraden Park from downtown McKees Rocks. MRCDC has been working with the City of Pittsburgh on public space along the Chartiers Creek, which is also the municipal line between Pittsburgh and McKees Rocks. On the City of Pittsburgh side, the creek is open, low lying, and undevelopable, acreage that is slated to be subsumed by Sheraden Park above it, to create an enviable 80-acre park with creek access and connection up into the City neighborhoods above it. Many of these neighborhoods, such as Sheraden, don’t have central business districts.

On the McKees Rocks side of Chartiers Creek, just across from this enlarged park area, is the McKees Rocks business district, with the Roxian Theater and the development that will be happening around it. The construction of a pedestrian bridge between the two spaces will connect them as a very unique and attractive offering for residents of the area, and visitors. With the Roxian Theater opening, justification for the investment of this bridge is increasingly strong as we work in agreement with the City to access  the McKees Rocks downtown is a terrific amenity for residents and Sheraden parkgoers. Access to this park will be a much-needed connection to public green space that does not currently exist in Sto-Rox, as well as an exciting amenity for visitors to Downtown McKees Rocks.

Neighborhood Allies/LISC provided financing, technical assistance and added capacity to support the development and completion of the Roxian Theatre. We are a proud partner and supporter of this project and the MRCDC! Read more


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