Demand for the Murphy Building in Tarentum shows renewed interest in the business district

Demand for office suites in the nearly 100-year-old Murphy Building in Tarentum exceeds available space.

The large corner building, which has been vacant for eight years, revitalizes the precinct’s business district with busy offices on the ground floor.

Owner Dave Rankin has embarked on a second wave of renovations that will slowly open up office space on the second floor and basement, beginning with upgrades to the Fourth Avenue facade to make it more inviting.

“It’s exciting to see life coming in,” said Rankin, who bought the former GC Murphy’s store in 2018.

“Once we’re done they’ll be rented out, which is great. It only costs time and money. We have an elevator that will cost $20,000 just to turn it on.”

Rankin secured a $160,000 rehabilitation loan through a Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation subsidiary called Landmarks Community Capital Corporation.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with Dave Rankin on this project,” said Michael Sriprasert, President of the Foundation. “The Murphy Building is an important building in Tarentum with an important history.”

The Credit Department coordinates home improvement loans to owners of buildings 50 years and older in the Greater Pittsburgh area. About 60% of loans are made in low- to middle-income neighborhoods.

The money will help Rankin pay for facade improvements, which include a fresh coat of aqua paint on the outside of the L-shaped building on East Fourth Avenue.

It is a great contrast to the Corbet Street facade of the building with its bright red color and gold letters.

Rankin said he’s working on plans for the second floor of the 30,000-square-foot site.

Renovations are designed to spark new interest and attract additional tenants.

Earlier this summer, the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments moved into the building after nearly 30 years in Harmar. The leaders cited the centralized location and a revival taking place in Tarentum.

According to local historian Cindy Homburg, the building has been a staple of the city since it was opened by GC Murphy in the 1920s. It had a grand reopening in 1942 and closed almost four decades later in 1979.

When Rankin bought it, contractors worked for months to complete about 5,000 square feet on the first floor overlooking Corbet. Work included electrical, HVAC, plumbing, flooring and other cosmetic touches. He then worked on the back half of the ground floor to prepare it for new business.

As evidence of his renewed vibrancy, Rankin said he was recently authorized by the US Postal Service to “turn the mail back on” in the building.

“As Dr. Pacek owned the building in the ’80s and ’90s, the postal service was established with two addresses, 414 Corbet St. and 413 E. Fourth Ave,” Rankin said.

The local postmaster and other postal authorities have allowed him to keep both addresses and implement internal mail delivery instead of letting tenants use a PO Box.

“I am pleased that this building is returning to a state of full occupancy and I believe this act of turning the Post back on is a sign of positive renewal,” he said.

Once the second floor and basement offices are leased, Rankin believes this will boost economic development in the rest of the corridor, as new tenants will help support other local businesses.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Tawnya via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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