URA moves on Hill YMCA, North Side, Larimer projects

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The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh has cleared the way for projects to begin in several of the city’s Black neighborhoods.

Chief among the items authorized during its July 8 meeting of the URA board was the purchase and transfer of 18 lots along Centre Avenue to the YMCA as the site for its new Thelma Lovette facility. The properties, valued at $237,250, include 14 lots that stretch from 2108 to 2140 Centre Ave. and another four on Hemans Street that will serve as a parking lot.

YMCA representative Phil Jones said the bulk of $13 million in funding is in place and he expects construction to begin in late August or early September.

In addition to the YMCA, the board also approved an agreement allowing the authority to disburse $1 million in state funds to the Hill House Economic Development Corp. for the Hill District grocery store.

Hill House President and CEO Victor Roque said the agency has site control and, with a signed contract with Shop ’n Save to operate the grocery announced July 7, he expects construction on the project to begin in six to eight weeks.

“We had to wait until we had an agreement with an operator,” said Roque. “Now we can get to work assembling our development team. Contractors. Jules Matthews, HHEDC executive director, has been in the real estate business for a long time and will be leading our effort.”

Even though no contracts have been signed, Mathews said the project would have more than 65 percent Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise participation.

Another Hill District project that received a boost during the meeting was to authorize $4 million for the adaptive reuse of the Connelly Trade School property, turning it into a “Green Jobs” training facility and showcase for renewable energy technologies.

Larimer will also receive “green” funding with the board authorizing $650,000 to renovate a former gas station at the intersection of Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard into an Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center.

The center would serve as a gathering space for green building initiatives, vacant lot remediation, demonstrations, training and employment programs.

The board also authorized $30,000 for Michael Baker Jr. to serve as a historic consultant for the redevelopment of properties on the block bound by West North Avenue, Federal Street, Eloise Street and Reddour Street in Central North Side. This block houses the former Garden Theater and is the final piece in the Federal North redevelopment project.

A community meeting to hear five different development proposals has been scheduled for 6 p.m., July 19 at the Children’s Museum.

The board also approved searching for a consultant to complete a “basic conditions” report on the Schenley and Reizenstein school buildings. The report is needed before the properties can be certified for development, and thus made eligible for financing that could reduce renovation and remediation costs. The URA has been assisting the Pittsburgh Public School District prepare to sell, develop and reuse its vacant properties.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpitts­burgh­courier.com.)

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