East Liberty, Lower Hill, Aliquippa win key state funding

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The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh rang out the year with the very merry announcement that it had secured $2.5 million in state grant funds for the East Liberty Transit Center.

The project will not only build a multimodal hub serving 800 transit riders a day with shorter routes and quicker transfers, but will also revitalize the neighborhood by reconnecting street grids, and spurring an additional multi-million dollar housing and retail development stretching from the transit center to the Bakery Square 2.0 development at the former Reizenstein school site.

In a statement released Dec. 23 URA Acting Executive Director Robert Rubenstein said the funding also means lots of jobs.

“This Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for the East Liberty Transit Center TOD will help to provide much needed infrastructure and create significant employment, not only in construction but ongoing,” he said. “The RACP funding awarded to our City represents a broad spectrum of investment, from jobs to transportation to cultural amenities. The common thread here is that all of these projects are critical to our region’s ability to attract and retain talent.”

In its application for an additional $17 million in federal Tiger IV grants, the authority and its partners estimated the project would generate 3,331 construction and permanent jobs.

The Corbett administration announced a total of  $133 million in development grants just before Christmas, of that $25.5 million was awarded to Allegheny County projects.  The largest single recipient locally was the Sports and Exhibition Authority, which received $5 million for infrastructure improvements to the 28-acre former Civic Arena site in the Lower Hill District.

Aliquippa, another distressed community with a large Black population in neighboring Beaver County, also received a significant award.  It will get $3 million to create the infrastructure needed to build a petrochemical manufacturing facility on the 78-acre former Jones & Laughlin Steel mill site.

Three days after the funding announcement, Shell Chemical extended its option to purchase a 300-acre site in neighboring Monaca, where it is contemplating constructing a multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant.

The facility would convert ethane from Marcellus Shale natural gas into ethylene used in everything from plastic pipe to antifreeze.

During après-announcements for the funding, Corbett praised the recipient projects noting that through creativity and careful stewardship is “brownfields are becoming brownstones.”

“We are transforming often neglected parts of our towns into thriving centers of commerce and recreation,” he said.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpitttsburghcourier.com.)

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