Category Archive: Easements
Thursday, October 14, 2010By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The former Trinity Industries building in Butler, fresh from a yearlong, $1 million rehabilitation, is open for business.
A project of the Butler Community Development Corp., the building was debuted at an event described by corporation executive director Ken Raybuck as “Deal Day.”
The building sits on about 5.5 acres of an expansion to the original 29-acre Pullman Center Business Park site.
Renovation of the former Trinity building, a 30,000-square-foot structure, is considered another phase of the development of the Pullman Center, which straddles the border between the city and Butler Township.
“Deal Day” was held Sept. 27 as an opportunity for potential tenants and buyers to see the newest part of the Pullman Center project.
The Trinity building is suitable for manufacturing and warehouse uses. It has a paved parking lot, a dock with three oversized overhead doors and a sprinkler system. The Pullman Center Business Park is equipped with all necessary infrastructure, such as roads and utilities.
The Pullman Center Business Park is the redevelopment of the former Pullman Standard Railcar Co. property.
A $3 million grant presented to the community corporation by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006 was used to redevelop the Pullman site.
The renovated Trinity building is in Pullman Center Business Park with four office buildings: Pullman Condominium Office Building, Bantam Commons, Pullman Commerce Center and Pullman Commons.
Mr. Raybuck said all office buildings except the Trinity building were fully occupied.
“The full occupancy is a testament to the good location and we hope this building will not remain vacant long,” Mr. Raybuck said, noting that there had been some inquiries about the property.
For more information, call the CDC at 1-800-283-0021.
Thursday, October 14, 2010By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Michael Sriprasert promised Wilkinsburg residents on Tuesday that they would have new neighbors next fall.
Mr. Sriprasert, director of real estate development for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, is overseeing two new housing projects in Wilkinsburg worth almost $10 million.
“By this time next year, we’ll have 27 new families moving in,” he said.
He was one of 10 speakers representing a consortium of government agencies, foundations and financial institutions that have undertaken housing restoration projects in the borough’s Hamnett Place neighborhood.
The session to announce the two latest elements in the renewal plan was held at the new Landmarks Housing Resource Center on Rebecca Avenue.
“This investment will expand our ability to attract people back to Wilkinsburg,” Mayor John Thompson said.
The larger effort is an $8.6 million renovation of two early 20th century apartment houses. They are the Crescent Building, at Rebecca and Kelly avenues, and the Wilson Building, about a block away on Jeanette Street.
Both structures are in poor shape. A portion of the roof of the three-story Crescent Building, for example, has collapsed.
The two apartments have long been eyesores, officials said.
“If we can restore the Crescent Building, that will build belief in Wilkinsburg,” said county Councilman William Robinson, D-Hill District. His council district includes Wilkinsburg.
When work is completed next year, the two buildings will have a total of 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House will provide support services to tenants, who must meet income guidelines.
The second project, budgeted at slightly more than $1 million, will restore three abandoned but architecturally significant homes on Jeanette Street and Holland Avenue. When renovations are complete, those homes will be for sale to buyers who have earnings no greater than 120 percent of the area’s median income.
The apartment project also involves acquisition and demolition of three neighboring structures. It is being funded by loans and grants from Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development, funds raised by the sale of Historic Tax Credits, private dollars from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and federal tax credits administered through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Money for restoration of the three homes is being provided by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.
Four other homes in the neighborhood have been renovated recently with help from the county and the Scaife Foundations. They have been sold and four families have moved in, Mr. Sriprasert said.
The restoration costs for the houses and the apartments are more than $300,000 per unit, about four times the median cost of a home in Wilkinsburg.
Those costs are high because of the dilapidated condition of the structures and because restoration, which often is more expensive than demolition and new construction, will save architecturally interesting buildings, Mr. Sriprasert said. The project is being funded in part with historic tax credits, which means it has to meet strict criteria for restoration, he said.
Supporters hope the restoration projects will produce a ripple effect, Mr. Sriprasert said, encouraging businesses and homeowners to invest private dollars in the neighborhood.
Tuesday morning’s program also marked the grand opening of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s housing resource center. It is located at Jeanette Street and Rebecca Avenue in a former Packard dealership.
It will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements and resource-saving “green” projects for Wilkinsburg residents,
The Landmarks Housing Resource Center will have a community open house for people in the neighborhood at 11 a.m. Saturday. That event will be followed at 12:45 p.m. by an inaugural workshop on the topic of restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces.
The cost for the workshop is $7. To register, call 412-471-5808, ext. 527, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Chris Ramirez
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Last updated: 8:02 am
With gaping holes from its broken windows, the fenced-in brick building at Rebecca and Kelly avenues in Wilkinsburg is an eyesore, one that’s too big to ignore.
People moved out of the three-story fixer-upper a long time ago, before Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson or anyone else can seem to remember. Pigeons and blackbirds live there now.
“When a kid walks by these buildings and sees that … no one cares about it, it tells them adults don’t care,” said McCarthy-Johnson, a borough council member. “Youths need to see things moving on and improving. They need to see things turn around.”
They soon will.
A public-private partnership on Tuesday detailed plans to invest $10 million in house-restoration projects in Wilkinsburg.
A total of $8.8 million will pay for renovating two early 20th century apartment houses — the Crescent Building at Rebecca and Kelly, and the Wilson Building on Jeanette Street.
Borough officials and investment groups say restoring housing would be key to turning around the neighborhood, which has been blighted by crime and struggling for a defined economic blueprint since the demise of the steel industry in the 1970s and ’80s.
About 19,000 people live in Wilkinsburg, where unemployment is about 9 percent. Nail salons, barber shops and mom-and-pop businesses line most of its main thoroughfare, Penn Avenue, offering little variety or chance for jobs.
“This is a huge investment that we hope will eventually attract more new families to move here,” Mayor John Thompson said.
The two buildings will house 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each apartment building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, will provide support services to tenants.
The project, which includes acquiring and demolishing three neighboring structures, is being paid for with loans and grants from Allegheny County, Historic Tax Credit Equity, Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and federal stimulus money that Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation is administering.
Work on the apartment buildings is expected to wrap up next year.
A second project — paid for by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations — will restore three vacant homes at Jeanette and Holland Avenue for $1 million. Once they are renovated, they will be sold to buyers.
“Affordable housing shouldn’t ever be difficult,” said Brian Hudson, executive director for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. “This partnership will make homeownership possible for a lot of people.”
Last year, TriState Capital Bank pledged $1.8 million over six years to help Wilkinsburg continue its housing renovation and development projects.
“Positive change is happening in Wilkinsburg,” TriState President A. William “Bill” Schenck III said. “And it’s happening because people have said they want it to happen and are behind what’s going on here.”
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation yesterday opened its housing resource center, located in a former Packard dealership in Wilkinsburg. It will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements. A neighborhood open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, with a workshop on restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces.
By Chris Ramirez
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Last updated: 2:37 pm
A public-private partnership today detailed plans for $10 million in house-restoration projects in Wilkinsburg.
A total of $8.6 million will be used to renovate two early 20th century apartment houses — the Crescent Building at Rebecca and Kelly avenues and the Wilson Building on Jeanette Street.
“This is a huge investment that we hope will eventually attract more new families to move here,” Mayor David Thompson said. He spoke at a news conference to spotlight the new projects and mark the grand opening of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s housing resource center in Wilkinsburg.
The two buildings will house 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each building will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, will provide support services to tenants. Work on the buildings is expected to wrap up next year.
The second project aims to restore three vacant homes at Jeanette and Holland Avenue for $1 million. When they are renovated, they will be sold to buyers who earn 120 percent or less than the area’s median income.
Money for restoration of the three homes is being funded by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A public-private partnership today unveiled plans to do housing restoration projects in Wilkinsburg worth almost $10 million.
“This investment will expand our ability to attract people back to Wilkinsburg,” Mayor John Thompson said after the announcement.
He was one of 10 speakers from government agencies and businesses that have undertaken re-use projects in the struggling borough of 19,000. The session was held at the new Landmarks Housing Resource Center in Wilkinsburg.
The larger effort announced today is an $8.6 million complete renovation of two early 20th century apartment houses. They are the Crescent Building, at Rebecca and Kelly avenues, and the Wilson Building, about a block away on Jeanette Street.
When work is completed next year, the two buildings will have 27 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Each will have a community room, laundry area and computer lab. Hosanna House, a community center and social services agency in Wilkinsburg, will provide support services to tenants, who must meet income guidelines.
The second project, budgeted at slightly more than $1 million, will restore three abandoned but architecturally significant homes on Jeanette Street and Holland Avenue. When renovation work is complete, those homes will be for sale to buyers who have income no greater than 120 percent of the area’s median income.
The apartment project also involves acquisition and demolition of three neighboring structures. It is being funded by loans and grants from Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development; funds raised by the sale of Historic Tax Credits; private dollars from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh; and federal tax credits administered through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.
Money for restoration of the three homes is being funded by Allegheny County and the Scaife Foundations.
This morning’s program also marked the grand opening of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation’s housing resource center. It is located at Jeanette Street and Rebecca Avenue in a former Packard dealership. It will provide workshops and programs dealing with home improvements and resource-saving “green” projects for Wilkinsburg residents,
The center will have a community open house for people in the neighborhood at 11 a.m. Saturday. That event will be followed at 12:45 p..m. by an inaugural workshop on the topic of restoring vacant lots as gardens and green spaces.
The cost for the workshop is $7. Those interested should call 412-471-5808, extn. 527, or e-mail email@example.com to register.
Monday, October 11, 2010By Ruth Ann Dailey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Conflicts are the bread-and-butter of journalism, of course — so much so that readers and reporters alike can find it all occasionally wearying.
So when a big, juicy conflict comes to a sorta-kinda happy resolution, it’s a relief to share the news.
Turns out it’s also instructive to take a closer look at the process and ask ourselves, “How the heck did that happen?” The people who threw themselves into protecting Allegheny Commons Park aren’t completely sure, but most of them — most — feel considerably less worried than they were this time last October.
“It was at Pumpkin Fest last year that we built the edifice,” recalled Bernie Beck, former president of the East Allegheny Community Council.
The “edifice” was a plywood mock-up of a cooling station Duquesne Light intended to build in the northeast corner of Allegheny Commons Park, and it was almost as attractive as the utility’s proposed 9-foot-tall, 28-foot-long metal structure promised to be. Which is to say, not very.
Allegheny Commons is the city’s oldest park, established by state legislation in 1867. A $2.3 million overhaul of the Northeast Common is slated to begin this fall, as part of the $16 million “Allegheny Commons Restoration Initiative.” So when Duquesne Light announced in May 2009 its unilateral decision to put a cooling station in that northeast section, citizens responded with indignation, public meetings and that attention-grabbing life-size mock-up.
Almost as quickly as it appeared, the plywood eyesore came down, but it had done its job. A year later, Duquesne Light crews appear to be well under way on an alternative site.
They’ve been busy at their 1970s-era underground facility in the Northeast Common, but at street level they’re headed east, digging a trench to 728 Cedar Ave., a residential property that Duquesne Light recently acquired. Neighbors say a garage there will be razed to make way for a new cooling station.
It seems that utilities, like God, move in mysterious ways, because none of the community participants I interviewed could say exactly how this new plan came to be.
Alida Baker, the Commons Initiative project manager, credits the combination of vigilant community groups, restoration steering committee input, city Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the weight of historic state legislation with changing Duquesne Light’s direction.
“They didn’t really discuss what they would do — it just became apparent,” Ms. Baker said.
That observation was seconded by Mr. Beck. “They bought the [residential] property before they discussed it with us,” he said. “When we raised a fuss, they held meetings and they came to ours.”
He last heard from the utility in March and was “still waiting for them to get back to us” when construction began. While it’s somewhat unpalatable, it’s not uncommon for a large entity to buy property as quietly as possible, thus keeping the price down.
However obscure part of the process was, the utility seems to have engaged the community when it had to. “We held some meetings with stakeholders,” said spokesman Joe Vallarian. “We’re happy we were able to come to something that everyone could agree on.”
Well, almost everybody. Charles Angemeer joined the community’s opposition to potential despoiling of the Commons as soon as he moved into the neighborhood in July 2009. The issue died down a bit, and his work picked up, so he was thunderstruck to learn recently that his front door is only 30-some feet from the utility’s new building site.
“The level of outrage I have toward Duquesne Light is pretty high,” he said. “They did not make their plans known to me — not a single piece of mail.”
Mr. Angemeer worries about safety, noise, quality of life and property values, and given Duquesne Light’s track record, “How responsive are they going to be to any issue that I, my wife or any other property owner might raise? Their consideration up to this point has been nonexistent.”
Well, Duquesne Light did bear in mind the pending park restoration, Mr. Vallarian noted. “That’s why we are going ahead and doing that part of our project first.”
He said there’s “no finalized plan” for what the cooling station will look like and thus no timeline for completion, but Mr. Beck is confident “it will be a pretty benign little building.”
The community council also hopes to acquire the adjacent empty house, to continue its Cedar Avenue sprucing-up.
So like I promised up front, a kinda-sorta happy ending where almost everyone gets some of what they wanted. That’s life — you heard it here first.
Renovated on one side; condemned on the otherMonday, October 11, 2010By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Among Pittsburgh’s many stories, one plays out in every neighborhood and is always sad.
It’s the tale of two owners and two buildings stuck together, one an asset to the neighborhood, the other a worry and a shame.
Pick a neighborhood, pick a street and you are likely to find two adjacent addresses that speak to the larger struggle between progress and abandonment.
The example at 1109-1111 Bingham St. on the South Side centers on a party wall that separates one man’s investment from a building condemned three years ago.
Bingham is one block north of and parallel to East Carson Street and is included in the East Carson historic district, which is why Tom Gigliotti and Tom Chajkowski appeared last week before the Historic Review Commission, whose agenda included Mr. Chajkowski’s property.
The commission voted to spare it for another 30 days; Mr. Chajkowski said he will produce an architect’s plan next month.
“It does need extensive work,” he told the panel, “but it can be done. It’s one of four houses left on that historic block.”
The next morning, on the sidewalk outside his commercial photography studio, Tom Gigliotti, the neighbor, said, “We’re back at square one, where we were three years ago.”
He said he does not feel antagonistic and even has some sympathies; the two men talk. But he’s clearly frustrated.
He bought his property in 1995 for $65,000 after having rented it for 10 years. It was “pretty run-down,” he said. “I don’t know how much I’ve put into it. Probably more than I could ever get out of it. A lot of blood and sweat.”
The two-story studio was completely remodeled, with hardwood flooring, a restored tin-stamped ceiling, a modern kitchen, skylights and a deck.
Because of the party wall, the adjacent building poses a threat to his building, both as is and in the case of demolition. It wasn’t such a threat 15 years ago, he said.
“Fifteen years now it’s been vacant, and there’s legally nothing I can do until it affects my building. It’s about to that point now.”
In 2005, Mr. Chajkowski was served notice for broken windows and a rotted rooftop deck. The city’s demolition manager, Paul Loy, told the commission that in November 2007, the property was condemned. The city and the owner were in court several times, he said.
In 2008, “he got a building permit, but he didn’t do anything, so it was revoked.
“This neighbor [Mr. Gigliotti] has tried to get it, but this owner is in dream world.”
Mr. Gigliotti said he has offered to buy the property but that the price has been impractically high.
In appealing to the commission for more time, Mr. Chajkowski lamented that he has had building permits revoked and been unable to get an architect, either because they are too busy or too expensive.
He could not be reached for further comment.
“I lived in the building for 20 years,” he told the commission. “My grandmother raised her kids around the corner” on 11th Street. This was his family’s first neighborhood in America, for 100 years, he said.
He said he thinks he can save his building. “I have a construction line of credit available and room on my credit card,” he said. “The taxes are paid and the building is secure.”
Mr. Gigliotti said he has heard this before and wonders how a person who claims such long ties to the neighborhood can allow his property to degrade it.
In the back courtyard that separates the two buildings, the air reeks of mildew. A door was ajar the other day. Through the crack, the interior contents resembled a dump and dampened remnants of a multi-family rummage sale.
The building has no downspouts or gutters. Mr. Gigliotti said his basement collects water when it rains. “It’s undermining my foundation.
“If this property costs him too much, I wish he would slap a ‘for sale’ sign on it so someone might save it.”
Auto body shop owner will train budding mechanics in 14,500-square-foot facilityFriday, October 01, 2010By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mike Fiore stood behind a podium Thursday morning, with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to his left, and said, “We finally got here.”
Mike’s Auto Body and Vocational Center — a dream that Mr. Fiore began chatting about with his son Michael four years ago — officially opened with a ceremony on the Meadow Street site in Larimer on Thursday. It will be fully operational by early next year, when Mr. Fiore expects to enroll his first class of mechanics for certification training, he said.
Mr. Ravenstahl called the training center the first substantial private investment in the neighborhood in 40 years. Mr. Fiore’s shop specializes in collision repairs and custom body work. He has run his business in Larimer for 40 years and trained young mechanics, but he had to take them off-site for some instruction. The new 14,500-square-foot vocational center will keep them on-site for hands-on and classroom work.
Mr. Fiore said he hopes 36 will graduate each year, certified in welding, spraying paint, diagnostics and other skills.
The $1.8 million project, with investment from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Small Business Administration and Fidelity Bank, will employ 10 people full time and has the potential to join other businesses in retrofitting gas-burning cars into electric cars.
Mr. Ferlo said that while multi-million dollar projects get most of the attention, “we never lose sight of the importance of small businesses and the cumulative total of their benefits.”
Tom Link, manager of the URA’s business development center, said small business is responsible for 70 percent of new job creation.
Mr. Ravenstahl said the training center “is a seed for future growth,” and that, with the new Target store being constructed nearby in East Liberty, “shame on us if we can’t figure out how to spread investment throughout the Larimer community.”
Meadow Street is a strategic corridor because it runs through Larimer and into Highland Park and East Liberty.
Mr. Ferlo, a URA board member, said the URA would like to buy several properties directly across the street from the vocational center in order to develop a retail and housing link.
Already, the vocational center has been used as meeting space for Highland Park neighborhood advocates, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Larimer Green Team and ward leaders.
Mr. Fiore said he advanced his idea to a lot of people and that many weren’t encouraging.
“A lot of folks said, ‘wonderful idea,’ and walked away,” he said. “But my son and his wife [Michael and Chrissy Fiore] were nonstop support. And Jim Ferlo. He kept after me through all the paperwork, ‘C’mon, we’re going to get this done.’ We’ll get through all the hassles.’