Construction will soon commence on a 31-home community in the Manchester neighborhood of the North Side. The Columbus Square development will see its first five homes completed sometime during the summer.

THE MANCHESTER TEAM —Front: Betty Jane, left, and Arthur Ralph. Standing, from left: Earl Coleman, Virginia Barnes, Linda Nelson, Brenda Moye, Stanley Lowe and Jerome Jackson.

“The conversion of a former Manchester industrial property to residential use is the result of a true public private partnership,” said Mark Schneider, a principal project developer for Fourth River Development. “Funding secured from the (Urban Redevelopment Authority), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Allegheny County’s Community Infrastructure Tourism Fund and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, together with PNC Bank’s financing of a model unity, enabled Columbus Square to move to the construction stage.”

In order to make Columbus Square an affordable housing site, PNC Mortgage Company will provide qualified buyers with below-market mortgage rates. The new homes, which range in price from $179,000 to the mid-200,000s, also qualify for a comprehensive tax abatement program.

“We have a number of tools that can make this a great investment and affordable for folks,” said Schneider. “Not only will that help our project, but people investing in renovating houses (in other parts of Manchester).”

The groundbreaking of Columbus Square, which took place Jan. 14, has been a long time in the making. The effort by Manchester Citizens Corporation to acquire the American Electric Site began five years ago.

“Someone came to MCC’s Board of Directors and said we should buy the American Electric Site, now known as Columbus Square (located at the intersection of Junita and Sedgwick streets). MCC did not have the $400,000 or the $40,000 down payment to purchase the site,” said Linda Nelson, MCC chairperson. “While he is no longer involved in this project, MCC would like to thank Stanley Lowe (former executive director) for lending us the early seed money ($40,000) to get this project moving.”

Lowe was one of the first to see how valuable the four acres of land was to the Manchester community. He also understood the impact a new residential community would have on revitalizing the rest of Manchester.

“One of the things I have a very large problem with is vacant lots and vacant land because there’s no one rushing to fill a vacant lot,” said Lowe. “(Columbus Square) is going to be a centerpiece of this neighborhood.”

In order to change the zoning, MCC had to clean up the site, which was a brown field, so it could be used for residential.

“I knew that the site was zoned industrial use so I knew whatever would go in there was not going to benefit the community,” Lowe said “Unless the community made the decision, the decision was going to be made for them. The course of this history of this neighborhood would have been changed.”

Each of the homes are single-family residences with a private yard and two-car garage. Ten of the units are townhouses in pairs of two and the remaining homes are freestanding residences.

Two alleyways will be reopened in Columbus Square and named after long time community activists Betty Jane and Arthur Ralph.

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