Four years ago, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, developer Beacon Corcoran Jennison, and community residents were embroiled in a property battle with the University of Pittsburgh that threatened to derail the continued development of the former Allequippa Terrace projects into the mixed-used community of Oak Hill.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl orchestrated a settlement that, on Aug. 9 brought those former antagonists together for a ribbon cutting for the first 86 housing units, the $37-million second Wadsworth Phase of Oak Hill.

FRESH START—Oak Hill Tennant Council President Eloise McDonald, center, is joined by developers, and state and local officials at the ribbon cutting for the newest section of Oak Hill. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

When she was fighting to get the second phase started, there was a time when Tenant Council President Eloise McDonald thought the development might not continue.

“I never thought I’d see it,” said McDonald. “But I’m glad I did. It’s much better than Allequippa Terrace.”

Beginning in 1995, the first phase placed 639 townhouses, condos and market-rate and subsidized apartments on part of the former 1,700-unit Allequippa Terrace site. The second phase calls for an additional 450 units. When completed the entire redevelopment will reach all the way to Centre Avenue.

The development has been funded through city, state and federal grants, low-income housing tax credits, and a contribution from the University of Pittsburgh.

Mayor Ravenstahl, who joined McDonald along with state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill, City Councilmen R. Daniel Lavelle and Rev. Ricky Burgess, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Brian Hudson, Beacon Corcoran Jennison Management, LLP Director Miles Byrne and Pitt Vice Chancellor Reny Clark, said Oak Hill is a major improvement for residents from the squalid, crime ridden projects of Allequippa Terrace.

“The end product does add to the quality of life of the residents,” he said. “It looks great. We have to make sure we continue to commit to it.”

Byrne said while the agreement forged with Pitt in 2007 eliminating a number of stand-alone homes from the plan, but in this first sub-phase the residents not only got the 86 units, including the Garden Apartment Building, and 14 townhouses, but also an Olympic-sized pool, basketball and tennis courts, and Wadsworth Hall, the entirely renovated community center.

Byrne said the company, which also manages the properties, hopes to begin the next sub-phase of Wadsworth soon. It is slated to include 20,000 square feet of office space and 3,000 square feet of retail space near Wadsworth Hall. The University of Pittsburgh has committed to leasing the office space, and Byrne said the hope is to lease the building to a grocery operator.

“That will change this place forever,” he said.

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