Community Profile: Swissvale Borough
Nestled among Pittsburgh’s east end communities, Swissvale Borough is located in the heart of the Monongahela Valley’s steel history. Like its neighboring municipalities, Swissvale was part of the economic powerhouse that drove the regional economy. Even in the aftermath of steel decline, Swissvale has shown its resilience as a proud community. Today, Swissvale strives to be a more livable community for its residents.
Swissvale is home to the historic Carrie Furnaces, which stand over 90 feet tall and are among the only remaining riverfront brownfield sites in the region. Though it has been vacant for some time, redevelopment plans are underway thanks to partnerships between local municipalities, the County, and the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation. Future plans include a highly interactive museum with refurbished furnaces and buildings, mixed-use development for vacant land, and more transit connections to the surrounding area.
In 2015, the Carrie Furnace area was used as the set for several episodes of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” for their summer season! The backdrop of the furnace gave the show a unique, steel theme that showed-off the rich history of the Pittsburgh region.
Councilman Darrell Rapp notes that the recent increase in activity in the Carrie Furnace area, from a municipal point of view, “brings in a greater demand for borough services, such as fire and police, but it is exciting because this area has been dormant in the community for many, many years and development is just around the corner.” Though he cautioned that it may take some time for these redevelopments to occur, grant money has become more available to local governments.
Swissvale has notably strong assets in its public transportation. Residents and visitors can easily catch a bus or hop on the busway to downtown, Oakland, Monroeville, and the Waterfront. Additionally, Swissvale has been making progress in the revitalization of its downtown area, with streetscape restoration that is bringing in new streetlights and street trees. Jointly with Edgewood, the borough recently received a grant for just under $480,000 to support the improvement of the bike/pedestrian infrastructure on South Braddock Ave. The community also boasts their award-winning Swissvale farmer’s Market. The market is going on its third year, and drawing a large crowd on Saturday mornings often with live music.
In March, 12 Swissvale families lost everything in a devastating fire that consumed the entire 11-unit apartment building. Within 10 days, the borough in partnership with local organizations raised $29,000 for the victims and their families. Undoubtedly, Swissvale is a community that looks out for one another, and as Councilman Rapp puts it, “it is a very solid, family-oriented community, with many people that have lived here a long time and care about their homes."