Following the Courier’s March 23 story on the extensive lot clearing and demolition of dilapidated housing on Charles Street in Pittsburgh’s North Side, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office confirmed some of the work is for a project of his Green Up Pittsburgh Program.
|OUT WITH THE OLD—A Mistick van sits by a lot where the city recently demolished one of several condemned properties now owned by the company.
“The program aims to stabilize city-owned vacant lots with the goals of reducing blight, inspiring community pride, and promoting environmental values,” said spokesperson Joanna Doven. “The innovative initiative converts city-owned blighted vacant lots into stable, community green spaces, thereby transforming the city’s liabilities into assets.”
Doven said the corner lot at the intersection of Charles Street and Brighton Road had been filled with cars at one time, but now will feature an “educational rain garden.”
“This site is not currently designated by the City as permanent green space. However, the City currently has a License and Cooperation Agreement with (the Pittsburgh Project, the Perry Hilltop Citizen’s Council, and the Charles Street Area Council) for the use and maintenance of this site,” she said. “A community planting will take place this spring to complete the site.”
The project was funded through a grant the Urban Redevelopment Authority received for the Mayor’s Green Up Pittsburgh Program from the State Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Mayor’s Green Up website simply describes the project as gateway greening. But the question remains—a gateway to what?
Just behind the corner property, extending further up Charles Street, nine condemned properties owned by Mistick Construction were razed, and the land cleared of all overgrowth down to barren earth.
Janet Ginter, board secretary for the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council said she was shocked by the extent of the demolition.
“I walked down there the other day, and it’s like the buildings there never existed,” she said. “Usually the city at least does top soil and seeding. But this is like everything’s been erased. I mean this is Charles Street, not the Twilight Zone.”
Chuck Powell, director of diversity and community outreach for the URA, said the authority frequently hires Mistick on housing projects, but whatever they have planned for Charles Street doesn’t currently involve the URA.
“They’re the biggest non-union contractor we work with,” said Powell. “And I know they hired a lot of Black labor on that demolition. But whatever they have planned, they haven’t asked us for any money. So I can’t tell you.”
Likewise, the mayor’s office has had no discussions with Mistick about the property. City zoning officer Jeff Manning said he recalled vague discussions about the land a few years ago, but Mistick has submitted no development plans for its property.
Company owner Bob Mistick said, for now, he is just trying to make the property surrounding his existing units more inviting. He said he has no immediate plans to build new housing there.
“We didn’t do the demolition, we just went in and cleaned up. There was garbage and old fencing,” he said. “For now we just hope to keep it clean. Maybe if some community people want a vineyard or something, we’ll see. We’re trying to make our housing more livable and have less impact on our neighbors.”