A Canonsburg-based developer will buy publicly owned land along the Ohio River in a move toward a proposed $475 million development that would include everything from affordable housing to a Ferris wheel.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority board voted unanimously to sell 5.6 acres of vacant land in the formerly industrial Chateau neighborhood, near Manchester, to an affiliate of Millcraft Investments. The developer will pay $1.5 million for the land, which cost the URA $1,350,000, and which Allegheny County now values for tax purposes at $256,100.

Millcraft plans to use that land as part of 15-acre Esplanade. When complete, it could include:

  • A 300-unit apartment building, including 60 units priced for households earning 80% or less of the area median income
  • Condominiums
  • A restaurant and fresh food market
  • A riverside pavilion
  • Stores
  • 550 parking spaces
  • A marina and public pier
  • An aquarium
  • Medical and tech space
  • A hotel
  • A 53-meter (174-foot) Ferris wheel with a view of Downtown.

The URA contemplates creating a Transit Revitalization Investment District [TRID] to fund infrastructure improvements on and near the site. The state-created TRID program allows borrowing to finance development costs, paid off with future tax revenues.

Millcraft has been in talks with the Manchester Citizens Corp. [MCC] leading toward the crafting of a community benefits agreement meant to ensure that neighboring areas are served by the development.

“We are absolutely pleased to see this project move forward,” said LaShawn Burton-Faulk, executive director of the MCC, at the URA board’s virtual meeting.

Millcraft Project Manager James Holcomb predicted “a huge impact economically in terms of job creation and contribution to the economy, and we’re going to do that hand-in-hand with Manchester.”

Hill parcels sold for office building

The URA board also voted to sell four parcels of Middle Hill land to an affiliate of the Hill Community Development Corp., for $195,000. The Centre Avenue parcels, just west of the New Granada Theater site, will become the site of a five-story office building, anchored by the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center.

A slide from a presentation made to the Urban Redevelopment Authority board on Dec. 16, 2021, regarding a planned office building on Centre Avenue.

The office building is expected to cost $22 million and is part of a $60 million redevelopment of the entire block.

“This is the first commercial development within our corridor for a very, very long time, decades I think, outside of the grocery store,” said city Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill District and is a URA board member. The New Granada site is not far from the Centre-Heldman Plaza, where the URA is attempting to bring in a new operator for a failed grocery store.

Housing Authority to sell stake in Downtown building

The URA board also voted to pay $1,306,000 for another authority’s share in the Downtown building at 200 Ross Street.

That location was long shared by the URA, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh [HACP] and some city government offices. The entities teamed up to buy 412 Boulevard of the Allies, and HACP is in the process of securing federal Department of Housing and Urban Development approval to move there by 2023. 

After HACP sells its 33% stake in 200 Ross, the URA plans to seek a developer interested in buying the building.

The meeting was the URA board’s last during Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration. Peduto will be replaced next month by state Rep. Ed Gainey, who is a member of the URA board. Gainey will have the power to appoint new board members as terms expire or members bow out, subject to confirmation by Pittsburgh City Council.

Rich Lord is PublicSource’s economic development reporter. He can be reached at rich@publicsource.org or on Twitter @richelord.

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Rich is the managing editor of PublicSource. He joined the team in 2020, serving as a reporter focused on housing and economic development and an assistant editor. He reported for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette...