URA funding for development and housing said to benefit community

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During its next to last meeting before the incoming Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto administration begins making changes, the Urban Redevelopment Authority board authorized funding for a number of housing and commercial development projects that may benefit the city’s Black community with employment and human service delivery.

Unique in more ways than one, is the Uptown Lofts on Fifth project, which though it sounds like a development for wealthy young professionals, is actually a 47-unit affordable housing initiative, developed by ACTION-Housing Inc. Twenty-four of those units will provide supportive housing for 18- to 24-year-olds who are at risk for homelessness because they have aged out of foster care.

The board unanimously approved $1 million in financing for the $13 million project.

The project is actually comprised of two buildings on either side of the 2000 block of Fifth Avenue. Managed through AHI’s MyPlace program, youth will be linked to educational and employment opportunities, and will receive comprehensive life-skills training to help them live independently. This will be the first building of its kind in the state.

The north building will also be constructed to Passive-House energy standards, while the south building will use conventional techniques, making the development a platform for efficiency and cost comparisons.

The 23-unit south building will consist of 20 one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units. All will be rented to households earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income.

Authority Board member and City Councilman thanked the developers for taking the time to educate some of his constituents on the project, and ease fears that “a bunch of juvenile delinquents would be moved into the community.”

Linda Metropulos of ACTION Housing said most people in the Hill have been very supportive the project, because these kids are in this situation through no fault of their own. Subject to Minority- and Women-owned Business Entity Review Commission approval, she said, construction on the $13 million project would begin in December and be completed in one year.

Another project that is expected to bring about 90 full-time jobs to East Liberty, but which will take a little longer, is the renovation of the former East Liberty YMCA into a 63-room boutique hotel operated by ACE Hotel Group. Because the conversion involves a historic building, and the preservation of unique fixtures and materials, the completion is slated for spring 2015.

The board approved $75,000 in façade loans as the final piece of the $23 million in financing the project requires. Asbestos removal and interior restoration has already begun.

Nate Cunningham, of East Liberty Development Inc., said the hotel would feature a ballroom, a gymnasium and a restaurant.

“There is a swimming pool in the basement, which will be preserved,” he said. “Perhaps to be restored at a future date.”

The board also authorized selling an additional 11 Homewood properties on Tioga and Susquehanna Streets to S & A Homes for the second phase of its Bridging the Busway affordable housing plan. The development will consist of 35 units of affordable rental housing and will compliment the 41-unit Homewood Station senior housing building.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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