Larimer Plan factions split… Development may be delayed

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It was supposed to be a done deal. The Larimer Consensus Group, the city and its relevant authorities had agreed on a first phase of housing partially along East Liberty Boulevard built by a Black contractor would jumpstart the multi-year housing and business redevelopment of the neighborhood.

RickyBurgess
RICKY BURGESS

Now, however, there is anything but consensus in Larimer as community members have said they do not like selected developer KBK’s designs, calling them horizontal projects. KBK, owned by Keith B. Keys, redeveloped the former Garfield Heights public housing community. The disagreement could delay development.

With state and federal tax credit financing applications for up to $45 million hanging in the balance, Larimer Council representative Rev. Ricky Burgess, who also chairs the housing authority board, sent a letter to community residents asking them to attend an Aug. 30 meeting at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church to support the current development plans. He blames the dissent on “outsiders.”

“We must seize these funding opportunities before they are taken from us because of our delay and given to another community,” he wrote. “We cannot allow outside organizations, outside interests or real estate speculators to steal our land and force us out.”

Louis “Hop” Kendrick, who lives in the community, said Burgess is ignoring the residents and the work done by the Larimer Consensus Group’s Visioning Plan for the neighborhood.

“They’ve worked on this for years, plans for green space, stand alone homes, split-levels, two-storyhomes. But Keys wants to build the same stuff he did in Garfield,” said Kendrick. “So Burgess is essentially telling the community he doesn’t care what they want.”

Kingsley Association Executive Director and Consensus Group member Malik Bankston said the consensus group replaced Chair Roland Criswell because he was siding with the councilman and not the community.

“We supported KBK when he first responded to the URA’s request for qualifications, but in the interim we were unable to reach an agreement with him about including the main points of our community development plan,” he said.

Bankston said while the home designs are part of the issue, of greater concern is that KBK would place its 30 or so units of low-income housing on the prime gateway sites defining the neighborhood.

“Putting them on prime properties doesn’t make any sense, nor does clustering them together to create pockets of poverty,” said Bankston. “We are currently putting together a report defining the optimum ratios of low-income, rental, affordable and market rate housing, and how they should be distributed for optimum growth.

“For the councilman to issue this letter is disingenuous because there will be another round of tax credit applications in the spring,” he continued. “We’ve waited years. We’d rather wait a few more months than rush into a development that recreates problems of the past.”

Bankston said all the consensus group members will be at the meeting and he is encouraging resident to attend. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, 271 Paulsen Ave., East Liberty.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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