04 October 2011

City taking steps towards Allegheny development

Graphic courtesy of www.pittsburghpa.gov

By Jeffrey Kranking, Juris Blogger
There are many things that bring people to the Strip District. It could be the Macaroni Company, Pamela’s world famous pancakes, Fresh bread from Mancinie’s, or the all too familiar fishy smell of Wholey’s. For me, it usually consists of chowing down on my favorite Polish food in the new Pittsburgh Public Market, or getting some Baklava from some of the many Greek and Turkish vendors. But, rest assured, no matter who you are, you do not head down the Strip to visit anything in the area north of Smallman St.

I know this because there is nothing there.

Just adjacent to the vibrant markets of Smallman St. and Penn Ave, there lies 40 acres of barren landscape, a testament to the rise and fall of heavy industry in Western Pennsylvania. I’ve always wondered what was to become of this urban wasteland. Will it sit in its unproductive, unfertile state, only to act as a giant gravel covered parking lot for neighboring Downtown? It may. But perhaps, with a little luck, it will be put to better use.

In February of 2011, the City released the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan, intended to reestablish neighborhoods toward the riverfront by creating new means of transportation, housing and business and is posed to create as many as 5,000 new jobs bring in an annual $6 million in new tax revenue for the City. The Plan consists of a collaborative effort from both public and private interest groups in the redevelopment of over 80 acres of the southern Allegheny Riverfront stretching 6.5 miles from the Strip to Highland Park.

The development proposal covers over 80 acres, 
stretching from the Strip District to Highland Park.
The recently submitted proposal, largely developed by Perkins Eastman, a Pittsburgh based international architectural and urban development firm, is under the direction of a 16-member Steering Committee consisting of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Neighbors in the Strip, Lawrenceville Corporation, City Planning, and the Pittsburgh Riverlife Task Force to name a few.

The creation of the proposal is largely the result of the partnership between the URA and the Buncher Company, a private Pittsburgh based real estate development group. Buncher owns major acreage in the Strip from 11th to 21st St., and in Lawrenceville from 43rd to 48th St., thus making it a key player in the riverfront plan. These sites along with those owned by the URA, including the 62nd St. Industrial Park (the former Tippins International site) and the Strip district Produce Terminal, total 80 acres of land and will be the focal points of the Allegheny Riverfront Plan. The focal points of the proposal are chiefly public projects initiated by the URA and the City of Pittsburgh in collaboration with the steering committee, with the assumption that the projects will attract private investment for the later and less concrete parts of the plan.

One major focal point includes the development of the desolate 40 acres of Buncher owned property behind the Terminal building in the Strip. Here, the City and the URA will spend about 20 million in capital (likely to be paid through local, state and federal capital funds and tax increment financing) to prepare this site for redevelopment. At this stage, Buncher will then follow Perkins Eastman developed plan for the construction of the site. Major construction in this area entails a residential building consisting of at least 75 units north of the terminal building and four-story mixed-use commercial building adjacent to the 16th St. Bridge at Smallman St. The URA and Buncher will then continue to develop the other focal points in this manner. Buncher has also agreed in relocating industrial firms along its riverfront properties in the strip and along 43rd to 48th St. to the 62nd St. site creating space for riverfront access to Strip and Lawrenceville residents. The hope of deploying this development strategy, based on the partnership between public and private development groups, is to follow in the success of the public/private based development of the former LTV site into today’s South Side Works.

Though, the plan is 20 years in the making, with construction not planned until the beginning of next year, it may just have enough momentum to catalyze, bringing in much needed development to these areas. So hopefully, while devouring a plate of greasy perogies on some distant Saturday morning in the Strip, I will be able to look north of Smallman and maybe see…something.

Jeffrey Kranking is a second year student at Duquesne University School of Law. He is member of the Urban Development Clinic as well as a staff writer for the Business Law Journal. Jeffrey earned is undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh, with majors in both Political Science and History. He will graduate from Duquesne University School of Law in 2013, and can be reached at krankingj@duq.edu.