Meeting highlights from Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority

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A meeting for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

Leadership from the Urban Redevelopment Authority at a January 2019 meeting of the URA Board of Directors. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

As part of Develop PGH, PublicSource will report here about notable actions and conversations from the monthly meetings of the Urban Redevelopment Authority [URA]. The meetings are held the second Thursday of each month in the Wherrett Room on the 13th floor at 200 Ross Street.

A recap of the May 9, 2019 URA board meeting:

  • The URA board of directors approved $1.36 million in zero-interest loans to to help finance a $13 million mixed-income housing development in East Liberty. Residents displaced from Penn Plaza will have top priority in the application process. The development at the corner of Station and North Beatty Streets, will feature 25 below-market one-bedroom units with rents between $196 to $609 a month, 12 two-bedroom below-market units with rents between $235 and $777 a month, and 10 one-bedroom market-rate units at $1,700 a month.

    Four units will be rented to households with incomes at or below 20% of Area Median Income [AMI].Twenty units will be rented to households with incomes at or below 50% AMI, and 13 units will be rented to households with incomes at or below 60% AMI. Pittsburgh-based TREK Development Group is overseeing the project, which is also supported by more than $10 million in low-income housing tax credits.

  • The board approved a plan to allocate $10 million for the URA’s Housing Opportunity Fund [HOF] for 2020. The plan is almost identical to this year’s, which split the pot up between five programs for both renters and homeowners. The largest item, designed to fund affordable housing construction, calls for $3.75 million next year, a slight decrease from $3.8 million this year. The new plan calls for $500,000 in contingency spending if new programs are added, according to Housing Opportunity Fund Director Jessica Smith Perry. URA officials estimate altogether the HOF allocation will serve 565 rental or homeowner households. Pittsburgh City Council has final say over approval.
  • The board approved $1.66 million in loans for an $8 million project from East Liberty Development Inc. to rehab 20 existing homes and build six new ones. Seventeen of the 26 homes in the project will be set aside for homebuyers whose household income is at or below 80% of AMI. The homes are scattered through the East End, including in East Liberty, Garfield and Larimer.
  • The board also approved a plan to apply for two $250,000 state grants from the Department of Community and Economic Development: one to help recoup costs of the URA’s purchase of 643 acres of Hays Woods, the other to fund construction of trails and park amenities in the Frick Park extension. The URA has so far secured $3.3 million in public in private grants to cover the $5.3 million Hays Woods purchase.

A recap of the April 11, 2019 URA board meeting:

  • The URA Board of Directors approved a $1 million sale to developer group Connection TWG of a 2.3-acre vacant lot at South Side Works, behind 3125 E. Carson St. The sale makes way for construction of a 280-unit building, including 28 units that will be reserved for households making no more than 50 percent of the area median income [AMI]. The URA negotiated the affordable units by bringing down the sale price of the valuable lot, according to URA Real Estate Director Nathan Clark. The developer plans to begin construction next month.
  • The board also approved the $102,000 sale of a quarter-acre lot in South Side Works to a company called SSW Waterfront, LLC. The company plans to build a clubhouse at the western end of South Water Street for the South Side Marina. The expected project cost is just north of $1 million.
  • The board approved the City of Pittsburgh’s “Clean Construction Diesel Operations” policy, which requires contractors on URA projects of at least $2.5 million to use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in diesel-powered construction equipment.
  • The board made permanent the URA’s Micro Enterprise Fund, a program the authority piloted over the past year. The program finances loans up to $20,000 for small, neighborhood businesses in Pittsburgh. Tom Link, director of the URA’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, reported that 23 of the 24 businesses that received loans were either women- or minority-owned. Link said the authority does not recoup the costs of administering the program.
  • The board approved a plan to sell six vacant buildings and 13 vacant lots in Manchester to the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] as part of the housing authority’s project to rehab 86 housing units created under the federal HOPE VI revitalization program. HACP will also build 40 new affordable modular units under the plan.
  • The board approved a $1 million loan to AHI Development, an affiliate of ACTION-Housing, to build a six-story, mixed-use building at the site of the former Squirrel Hill Theater. As part of the $27 million project, AHI plans to include 37 one-bedroom units and six two-bedroom units at below-market rates. A quarter of those units will be for residents with disabilities.

A recap of the March 14, 2019 URA board meeting:

  • The URA Board of Directors approved a redevelopment proposal from Pittsburgh-based TREK Development Group for several lots next to the Garden Theater building on North Avenue. TREK’s preliminary plans include a five-story apartment building with 63 rental units along North Avenue, adjacent to the Garden Theater, and on several lots on Federal Avenue. TREK’s tentative plans include a retail space on the ground floor. The developer estimates project costs to run close to $7.7 million. (Here is a previous PublicSource story on the Garden Theater block.)
  • The board also approved a proposal for the sale of land on North Lexington Street in Homewood for $3.2 million to ICON Development and KBK Enterprises, two Pittsburgh-based developers. The 12-acre site includes a pair of existing buildings where the developers say they will build new office space. The office complex will include rent as low as $10 per square foot to support newer companies. Other space will go for as much $30 per square foot, according to ICON. A final plan for the site will come before the URA board again for approval.
  • The board also approved a $1.2 million URA loan agreement with ACTION-Housing for a 35-unit affordable housing complex in Lower Lawrenceville. Most of the units will cater to households with incomes at or below 60 percent of the area median income, a metric calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • The URA’s new Housing Opportunity Fund received approval for $750,000 to contract with social service providers for programs to assist renters and homeowners. Neighborhood Legal Services and the YWCA of Pittsburgh, among other organizations, will work with residents who need legal help to avoid eviction or to get the title of their home placed in their name.
  • The Hill District Community Development Corporation also received a $50,000 grant, the final funding piece for the organization to renovate the ground floor of the historic Granada Theater building. Hill Community Development Corporation CEO Marimba Milliones said at the meeting that the organization expects to have a ribbon cutting for the project this summer. The ground floor will be home to Hill CDC programs that help local residents start or expand businesses.

Tom Lisi is PublicSource's Develop PGH reporter. You can reach him at 412-368-6480 or by email at tom@publicsource.org.

Develop PGH has been made possible with funding from The Heinz Endowments.

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