URA approves Centre Avenue developments

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Three weeks ago, residents of Pittsburgh’s Hill District reviewed and approved five potential development projects for the Centre Avenue corridor. They forwarded all five to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority for consideration and funding approval.

During its Sept. 12 meeting, the board moved the first of these projects forward—a four-story, mixed-income apartment building that would also house 3,400 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

The 33,000 square-foot structure and a 16-space parking lot would be constructed on seven lots adjacent to the Legacy senior housing facility, and would contain 24 mixed income apartments. The URA gave E Properties & Development an exclusive six-month option to buy the properties.

Though not strictly a business development, Hill Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, said it will build the residency capacity to support future business development along Centre Avenue, and would compliment the development of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site in the lower Hill.

“The location is part of an overall strategy to bring housing closer to Centre Avenue to support business growth,” said Lavelle, who also serves on the URA board.

E Properties, located in Lawrenceville, specializes in housing redevelopment and is currently seeking zoning approval to renovate the former Holy Family School and rectory on 44th street into market-rate apartments.

E Properties also submitted a proposal for another stand four story mixed income apartment building at 2030 Centre Ave. It too calls for first-floor retail space and a 15-space parking lot. Lavelle said all five projects will be taken up by the board and he expects to see board authorization for all five within the next 18 months.

The other community approved initiatives include a mixed-use building and townhomes project by KBK Enterprises and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh for 59 one and two bedroom apartments and 46 two and three bedroom townhouses; a health clinic and expanded meeting and programming space on a lot bound by Soho and Hallett streets, proposed by FOCUS Pittsburgh, a faith-based nonprofit currently at 2228 Centre Ave.; and a proposal by the Ujamaa Collective for a market, boutique, offices and business incubator at 2239 Centre.

In addition to those projects, the URA board also approved entering into a $1.2 million agreement for the final piece of funding for the Energy Innovation Center at the site of the former Connelley Trade School on Bedford Ave. The project, budgeted at $38 million would transform the building into a showplace for green and sustainable building and energy applications, education and programming.

Lavelle said all the Connelley funding and contracting is contingent on review of the Center’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise plan.

“That project will take a while,” he said. “But I’m told the M/WBE plan looks very good, so that could mean a lot of work for Hill residents.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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