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Baltimore-style revitalization eyed for Pittsburgh

By Sam Spatter
Thursday, August 4, 2005

Pittsburgh leaders should look to the southeast for a guide on redeveloping Fifth and Forbes avenues Downtown, the president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation said Wednesday.

The Murphy administration’s plan to enlist one developer hasn’t worked, said landmarks President Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., so the city should consider copying Baltimore’s continuing effort that has revitalized part of its downtown.

“If that single developer steps forward, that would be fine,” Ziegler told members of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club. “But so far, it has been an elusive goal. We believe the Baltimore plan that worked there very well should be examined again.”

Ziegler referred to Baltimore’s $800 million project driven mainly by private investment and fueled by historic preservation tax credits that has renewed a 26-block area over the past several years.

The city packaged buildings, determined specified uses and quality levels, and offered the packages on the open market, he said.

If Pittsburgh officials adopted a similar plan, national and local developers might be persuaded to take a look at redeveloping pieces of Fifth and Forbes, Ziegler said.

Three developers have considered becoming the master developer for Fifth-Forbes, only to walk away. Dranoff Properties of Philadelphia is the most recent.

Ziegler said he’s been approached by at least two local developers interested in Downtown redevelopment, but not the entire Fifth-Forbes corridor.

“If a major developer can’t be located, then obviously other options would have to be considered,” said Herb Burger, who is leading a private effort to revitalize the corridor. “But I believe a major developer will participate in Downtown renewal.”

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, founded in 1964, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preservation.

One of its major successes is Station Square on the Monongahela River on the South Side. The entertainment and office complex was developed in a former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad warehouse site.

The redevelopment, which began in 1975, owes much of that success to nearly $12 million in private money provided through the Allegheny Foundation, Ziegler said. Richard M. Scaife, owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, chairs the Allegheny Foundation.

Ziegler said that many of the Downtown developments subsidized by taxpayer money — such as the Lazarus-Macy’s department store and the conversion of the former Mellon Bank headquarters into a Lord & Taylor store — have failed.

He said tax credits have helped finance the Heinz Lofts on the North Side and the Cork Factory redevelopment in the Strip District. Tax credits also could help transform the former Nabisco plant into housing in East Liberty.

Staff writer Ron DaParma contributed to this report.

Sam Spatter can be reached at or .

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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