East Liberty, Larimer and Homewood figured prominently during the Urban Redevelopment Authority board’s May 10 meeting as members voted to authorize $3 million to finance three projects there, involving the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, the Larimer School, and a new park to be built on the East Liberty/Larimer border.
The authority purchased the school from developer Emmett Miles in 2016. Despite the building’s historic and architectural significance—and the fact that its location now makes it eligible for federal Choice Neighborhood Tax Credit financing—Miles could never get the funding needed to convert the 53,000 square foot complex into a hub for career training, housing and economic development.
“Though the Larimer School has had several owners since closing in the 1980s, none have been able to redevelop it. These funds will be used to stabilize the main building, primarily the roof,” Deputy Director of Housing Jessica Smith Perry told the board.
Similarly, with the Coliseum, the funds will be used to purchase and stabilize the property for redevelopment. The Coliseum was to have been purchased in February, but the sale was delayed by the death of the owner, John Brewer, who turned the former trolley barn into a hub for events and activities in Homewood.
Lastly, the park, to be constructed at the intersection of Larimer Avenue and Station street, will comprise about 3.2 acres and make use of the latest in “green” infrastructure.
In related actions with respect to the Larimer/East Liberty Choice Neighborhood development area, the board also voted to accept a $650,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to construct another three-acre “Green” park, and to sell 25 lots along Larimer Avenue, Winslow Street, Meadow Street and Stroebner Way to the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh for new housing construction. This phase of the $3 million Choice Neighborhoods development calls for 49 units of mixed-income housing, including 15 unrestricted market-rate units, 18 Low Income Housing Tax Credit units, and 16 Project-Based Voucher replacement units.
In the Hill District, the board approved the $4 million loan to developer Ralph Falbo to build 24 new senior housing units and an adult daycare center at the former Western Restoration Center Tuberculosis Hospital. The approval had been delayed since last month’s meeting.
Something that has been delayed slightly longer is the decade-old idea of building a park over I-579 to reunite the lower Hill District with Downtown. The board approved a loan of $900,000 to the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County as its part of the funding for the project, which received a major federal grant in 2016.
Board member and Hill District Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle was elated to vote yes on the authorization.
“This has been a long time coming,” he said.
Reading from his report, authority Executive Director Robert Rubinstein put the total cost of the project at $26.44 million, with the bulk coming from a $19 million TIGER grant the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the SEA in 2016. Rubinstein called the project “transformational.”
“It will create a new urban public connector that will improve pedestrian and bicycle movement, remediate a physical and psychological barrier that currently separates the historic Hill District and the Central Business District, and increase job and economic opportunities for the residents of the Hill District community,” he said.
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