Charleroi, PA- A Mon Valley town, with a Strong Historic Heart

Charleroi got its name from the Belgian city of Charleroi an ode to the many Belgian immigrants in the Monongahela area at the end of the 19th century, many of whom were glass makers. The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company, today PPG Industries, had a large manufacturing plant in the borough at one point employing around a thousand employees. This made it one of the largest glass factories in the world . Today the borough is home to Corelle Brands, which makes Pyrex. Charleroi has seen significant population decline and is currently reduced to 1/3 of its maximum population of 11,500 in 1920. Keep in mind that the town was founded around 1900!

Charleroi has not declined as drastically as other Mon Valley communities (e.g. Duquesne, Clairton, McKeesport, or Glassport). Part of this is likely due to its racial make up (90% white). But it is also apparent that there has been a concerted effort to stabilize the borough, especially its main street heart spanning 7 blocks along both McKean and Fallowfield Avenues. Not surprisingly this is oversized for its currently population which is why significant vacancy co-exists with many stores. My hope is that more buildings can transition to residential use, work/live space, co-working offices, or other creative uses. Other areas Charleroi can improve to become a more viable urban area include moving its schools into the borough, installing bike lanes, attracting a supermarket, and continuing to mediate blight and attract immigrants. 
Click here to view my entire Charleroi album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great street grid and connectivity.
* Large percentage of family households around 50%.
* Great historic commercial architecture.
* ADA and sidewalk infrastructure is great in the businesses district including some thought newer streetscaping. The residential areas up the hill has decent ADA infrastructure.
* The urban business district hosts a nice array of neighborhood amenities including about 10 restaurants, a cafe, several bars & a brewery, a post office, library, drug store, and good array of boutiques/specialty stores and general retail.
* Other than restaurants & bars cultural amenities are limited to an escape room and a couple art galleries.
* High level of “city imageability” with a well defined main street, iconic historic buildings, and strong street grid.
* Most of the historic form and fabric of the business district remains, even if much of it is blighted.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Poor public transit and access to major employment center in the Pittsburgh Metro.
* High poverty city with about 25% below the poverty line. But incomes seem to be rising. Median household income was around 23K in 2000 and now is closer to 40K.
* Limited racial diversity. Around 90% of population is White. The rest is a mix of Asians, Blacks, and Hispanics.
* Rentals are limited but inexpensive. For sale housing is cheap. Most homes selling below 50K. Some between 50-100K. And a few in the 100Ks.
* No bike infrastructure.
* Really no modern infill here.
* Park amenities include several ballfields by the river and a couple smaller neighborhood parks in the residential areas.
* No supermarkets, larger retailers, or hospitals within the borough limits.
* Still lots of blight in the commercial district even with many occupied businesses. Some blight in residential areas, especially near town. The residential area up the hill is actually pretty stable.
* Sadly no significant schools within the Charleroi borders. They are north of borough in the outskirts.

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