$20M Braddock development for hospital site

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Revitalization efforts for Braddock took a blow in 2009 when UPMC announced it was closing Braddock Hospital. But those efforts are back on track with the announcement of a $20.3 million redevelopment project for the old hospital site.

“Since late 2009, Allegheny County has been closely collaborating with the Braddock Working Group to identify redevelopment opportunities for the hospital site that would maximize job creation and benefit the community,” Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato said during a Dec. 21 press conference. “Today, we unveil a $20.3 million plan that addresses a number of Braddock’s needs and continues our eight-year effort to transform and revitalize this great community.”

The project calls for the construction of a $26,000 square-foot office building, rental and for-sale housing, and a new community park. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman said the development will not only revitalize the city but also help in marketing.

“This is huge. I can’t name another community that lost a community hospital and got even a warm handshake for it, let alone a $20 million development,” he said. “We’ve got an amazing, flexible, mixed-use redevelopment plan for our community. What mayor wouldn’t want to tout that? Dan Onorato really delivered for Braddock.”

The county approved South Side-based TREK Development as master developer for the project in August. The firm completed its environmental site assessment in October, and has since applied for $8 million in federal low-income housing credits to finance the rental development.

That portion of the project, slated for completion in spring 2013, will include eight one-bedroom apartments, eight two-bedroom townhouses and eight three-bedroom townhouses. In addition to the tax credits, another $1.3 million in federal, local and equity funding will also go toward rental unit construction.

The for-sale housing will consist of 11 single-family homes bordering a 20,000 square-foot park. Both will be financed through a combination of federal state and local funding, with an additional $2 million for infrastructure improvements.

Though Braddock’s need for new housing is great, Fetterman said, the flex-office complex fills a critical need for retail and office space—and with a $3 million contribution to the project from UPMC, the borough is receiving the equivalent of 15 years in wage taxes it lost when the hospital closed.

“One of our biggest challenges to bringing in new businesses is the lack of turnkey space. I get inquiries all the time. Moreover, the new senior housing on Braddock Avenue is 100 percent occupied, with a waiting list. So the need is there,” he said.

“It’s not the jobs (lost) per se, but the access to such a great level of healthcare. It was such a beautiful facility. I am hopeful with the new building we will get an urgent care center in town.”

So is the county, which is engaged in ongoing discussions with both the Community College of Allegheny County and Primary Care Health Services to occupy the building.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com)

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