Feds fund neighborhoods

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Two languishing development projects in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty and Hill District communities are now closer to completion thanks to an influx of federal funding.

Joined by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pittsburgh, and community representatives at an Oct. 17 press conference, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced $1.6 million in Community Economic Development Grants had been approved for the former YMCA building in East Liberty and the Shop ‘N Save grocery in the Hill.

“Neighborhood projects like these are crucial to continuing Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance, which is marked by job creation, neighborhood growth and economic development,” said Ravenstahl. “I am grateful to President Obama and his Administration for continuing to invest in the City of Pittsburgh.”

East Liberty Development Inc. will receive $800,000 to help in its renovation of the former YMCA building on Penn Avenue, turning the 5-story building into a 63-room boutique hotel. When completed, the building, which has been vacant for 10 years, will also boast a restaurant, coffee bar, gym and event and conference space.

Maelene Myers, ELDI executive director said, the project would not only define the edge of the neighborhood, but also act as a bridge to move development further up Penn Avenue toward Garfield.

“This project supports the first transformative development on the Garfield edge of the historic core of the East Liberty commercial district,” she said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority had already contributed $555,000 in loans toward the $19 million renovation, which is expected to create 100 jobs.

The remaining $789,000 in federal grants will go toward the Hill House Association’s Shop ‘N Save project. The long-awaited grocery development, which was to have started construction in the fall of 2010, has been stalled since new Hill House President and CEO Cheryl Hall-Russell discovered a near $4 million funding shortfall.

“We are delighted to receive the news that our OCS grant application has been approved,” she said. “This has been a very difficult project to complete and our community has been waiting a long time for fresh food and new retail options. We have been steadfast in our commitment to ensure a full-service grocery store comes to the Hill.”

Doyle said he was happy to advocate for the grant funding, saying the Hill has been without a grocery for too long.

“Working with community organizations like the Hill House and East Liberty Development, Inc, we have been able to accomplish our shared goals of significantly improving the quality of life for residents of the Hill District and East Liberty,” he said.

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