Category Archive: Property for Sale
By Adam Brandolph
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
An Allegheny County judge put a temporary halt on the city’s plan to demolish a condemned property in Larimer after a Sharpsburg man said he wants to restore it.
John Cobb plans to rehabilitate a 110-year-old building at 16 Shetland St. to use as an investment property, said his attorney, Matthew L. Kurzweg. Cobb, who applied for permits to reverse the condemnation after the judge’s decision on Friday, declined comment.
“From my understanding, the building is pretty structurally sound,” Kurzweg said Monday.
Common Pleas Judge Robert Colville said the city could demolish the building after Feb. 1 if Cobb fails to show progress on the rehabilitation.
Pittsburgh building inspection officials said the property is in bad condition but don’t believe the city will appeal the judge’s decision. City Solicitor Dan Regan could not be reached for comment.
Sherry Hickson, 72, a longtime Larimer resident, said the building needs to go.
“If it’s in bad condition, it could pose a threat to everyone around it,” Hickson said.
Neighbor Robert S. Brown said he would like to see the building restored.
“There are so many places where every building is torn down, and it looks ugly,” Brown said. “If this guy wants to try to restore it, they should let him.”
The building is one of many slated for demolition. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl budgeted $3.04 million to level condemned buildings this year, including $2.19 million in city money and $850,000 in federal dollars.
Monday, November 01, 2010By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Up hills, along tight curves and down into the river valleys, a bus full of local real-estate agents navigated Pittsburgh last week on a tour the Urban Redevelopment Authority put together to boost city home sales.
“I just got a whole different perspective,” said Mary Lynne Deets, education manager for the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, who sold only about five homes in the city during a 30-year sales career.
That’s the kind of statistic the URA would like to change.
While open to all real estate professionals, the tour was designed to enlighten suburban agents unfamiliar with the city and all it has to offer. Officials hope their upbeat message will hit home, many times over.
“A lot of people want a walkable, pedestrian-friendly community to live in with a lot going on. That’s what urban living is all about,” said Kyra Straussman, URA real estate director.
Ms. Straussman said the URA ramped up home marketing efforts at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s direction about three years ago.
In May, the URA launched a Web site — Pittsburghcityliving.com — that pairs prospective home buyers with neighborhoods meeting their requirements. “It’s like Match.com for your neighborhood,” Ms. Straussman said.
The workshop for real estate agents, “City Living: A Focus on the Pittsburgh Client,” was another phase of the initiative. It was developed by Ms. Straussman; Josette Fitzgibbons, coordinator of the Mainstreets and Elm Street programs; and Megan Stearman, Mainstreets development specialist.
About 20 agents, most with little knowledge of the city, signed up. Under a special arrangement with the state Real Estate Commission, all received continuing education credits needed to maintain their licenses.
The agents saw new construction on the Central North Side, in Fineview and at Summerset at Frick Park. They heard about the house-by-house revival of Friendship, the development spurt in East Liberty and Lawrenceville’s recent emergence as a hot housing market.
They visited Riverview Park on the North Side, Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 on the South Side and Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview. Sometimes, “neighborhood ambassadors” climbed aboard to talk about their communities and how civic groups augment the development work of city agencies.
“You know, we had rave reviews from the ‘students,’ ” Ms. Deets said, noting most continuing education workshops for real estate agents are classroom sessions on such issues as tax assessment and foreclosures.
Because the workshop was unusual, the Realtors Association had to persuade the Real Estate Commission to give the continuing education credits, Ms. Deets said. The participants did spend some time in a classroom, learning about tax abatement, other home buyer incentives and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
To address concerns about the quality of city schools, the URA scheduled presentations about city magnet programs, the district’s academic improvement efforts and the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. To counter other concerns about urban living, the URA arranged for the group to meet a man who’s raising two teenage girls on the South Side Flats and a single woman who lives in Allegheny West.
The URA plans to offer the workshop again in the spring. In the meantime, to track the success of last week’s program, the URA will send a thank-you gift to any participant who provides verification of a city home sale.
Ellen Connelly, a Howard Hanna agent who works mostly in the city, said the tour will make her job easier.
“I have an out-of-town client coming in. She’s looking at Sewickley. She’s looking at Fox Chapel. But she’s really focused on the city,” Ms. Connelly said.
Thursday, October 21, 2010By Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As the community prepares to shine a headlight on the historic pairing of the jeep and Butler, efforts have been ongoing to promote the preservation of the site where the jeep was manufactured: the Bantam building off Hansen Avenue in Pullman Center Business Park.
Butler Downtown, an organization committed to the revitalization of the city, coordinated a community drive to raise $25,000 toward the preservation of the building. A representative of AK Steel, which owns the building, said the company was willing to listen to any proposals.
In September, Becky Smith, Main Street manager for Butler Downtown, entered the building in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters Community Challenge.” The prize was $25,000 for the site that had the most computer clicks in the challenge.
Of 119 community projects, Butler’s Bantam Building ranked 23rd with more than 600 votes.
“We’re not going to win the money, but this effort raised awareness of the historical significance of the building,” Ms. Smith said.
The winner was a theater project in Austin, Texas.
The building is not being used, and its structural integrity is in question — the roof has a hole in it. Ms. Smith said the prize money could have been used to further the cause for placement on the national historic register or turned over to AK Steel to help with building repair costs.
She said several entities — including Downtown Butler, the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, the Butler County Historical Society and the city of Butler — support the effort to have the building preserved as an important historical place.
The building was constructed in 1899 and 1900 by the Davis Lead Co. After a couple of owners, it ended up in the hands of American Bantam Car Co. in 1929. It was the site of the jeep’s initial manufacture in 1940.
In May, The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh named the Bantam building to its “Top 10 List of Best Preservation Opportunities in the Pittsburgh Area.” The list is designed to encourage investment in historic sites throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
A spokesman for AK Steel said the practical concerns were standing in the way.
“We have a sense of history ourselves, and we understand the interest in the history of the building; but I don’t know if it’s realistic,” said Alan H. McCoy, vice president for government and public relations.
Mr. McCoy said the building, which hasn’t been used by the company since the 1970s, not only has deteriorated but it is also on a site that is still used by AK Steel.
“It’s not just a matter of transferring ownership of the building. How would they then access it? There are substantial hurdles,” he said.
Still, Mr. McCoy said the company remained open to discussion. “We haven’t said ‘no’ to the idea, and we haven’t said ‘yes’. We just have to see how things unfold.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
By Craig Smith
Monday, September 27, 2010
Grace Rothmeyer worries about her home of 23 years in Etna, even though one of two empty houses next door finally sold.
“I’m really happy that it sold,” said Rothmeyer, 77, of Oakland Street, who waited two years for new neighbors. “Sometimes when they are empty that long, they can become crack houses.”
Empty homes and buildings are causing a dilemma for municipal officials across the nation. Pennsylvania lawmakers are working to arm local officials with tools to battle blight.
A bill before the state House would allow for extradition of out-of-state property owners with pending housing code violations. The measure, introduced by Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, unanimously passed the Senate in July and awaits action in the House Urban Affairs Committee. Lawmakers hope to get it ready for the governor’s signature before the end of the year.
The extent of the problem statewide is difficult to measure, officials said. Estimates put the number of vacant buildings across Pennsylvania at 300,000, including more than 17,000 in Pittsburgh and more than 44,000 in Allegheny County.
“There is no inventory of abandoned buildings,” said attorney Irene McLaughlin, who co-chairs a task force formed by the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Real Property Section and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office.
Nationwide, foreclosures rose 4.2 percent in August from July but declined 5.5 percent from a year ago. The pace of home mortgage foreclosure activity decreased 13.2 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh region from July levels but was up 16.8 percent from August 2009, according to data from RealtyTrac Inc.
Landlords oppose Argall’s bill.
“It will hamper development; it will tie the hands of people who do that kind of work,” said Jean Yevik, president of the Western Pennsylvania Real Estate Investors Association.
She questioned whether extradition would work.
“I feel those folks have a responsibility if they bought property here, but if they are going to try to extradite those with code violations, do you think California will extradite them?” Yevik asked. “Would you like to be the test case? I would.”
The bill would give municipalities the authority to go after the financial assets of negligent owners and hold lenders responsible for properties they control through foreclosure.
“That’s what we need,” said Ed Fike, mayor of Uniontown.
Once home to Sears Roebuck & Co., G.C. Murphy Co. and Kaufmann’s, the Fayette County seat is a city in transition like many Pennsylvania towns. Large, empty storefronts were converted to apartments for seniors and other uses.
Officials in small boroughs such as Etna have hoped for a broad approach rather than community-by-community enforcement.
“This needs to go up a couple levels,” borough Manager Mary Ellen Ramage said. “It is a problem that many (communities) face.”
Many of Etna’s 15 to 20 vacant buildings, including the former Freeport Hotel, have been empty for more than 10 years.
“All smaller communities are suffering the impact of this. No community is exempt,” said Diana M. Reitz, community development coordinator in Jeannette. “Government has to step it up.”
Between April 1, 2009, and March 31, Pittsburgh spent more than $615,000 in Community Development Block Grant money on clearance and demolition, according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Allegheny County spent more than $1.3 million for clearance and demolition between March 1, 2009, and Feb. 28.
Westmoreland County spent more than $303,000 between May 1, 2009, and Aug. 1 of this year for clearance and demolition, HUD records show.
Developing a plan to reuse properties after they’re acquired is critical, said Larry Larese, executive director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.
“The devil will be in the details,” he said.
Advocates for cities with declining populations — they call it “right-sizing” — maintain that those cities should accept they won’t rebuild population bases quickly and should level abandoned houses and buildings to make room for parks, gardens and green spaces.
The Center for Community Progress, a blight-fighting group from Flint, Mich., is working with 15 cities, including Pittsburgh, to develop strategies to deal with blight.
Flint razed 1,500 to 1,600 abandoned houses to reshape its neighborhoods, said Dan Kildee, co-founder and president of the organization and the former treasurer of Genesee County, Mich., and Genesee County Land Bank chairman.
“It’s about reuse of the land … working with local investors and neighborhoods, instead of shotgunning these properties out to the speculator market,” Kildee said.
But wholesale bulldozing worries preservationists.
“We are talking with the city about (buildings) that are architecturally valuable. And the city has been cooperative,” said Arthur Ziegler Jr., president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. “But there’s been no overall policy developed yet.”
People abandon buildings for many reasons, according to Sustainable Pittsburgh, an advocacy group working to revitalize urban areas.
The properties might be owned by absentee landlords or slumlords. They might be sealed, vacant properties that speculators are sitting on. Some are underwater — that is, the debt exceeds market value. Others are owned and occupied by people whose incomes don’t allow for needed repairs.
Many are properties whose owners died, moved to nursing homes, relocated for job opportunities or went bankrupt.
Land bank authorities
A separate bill that establishes land bank authorities in Pennsylvania passed the House in June. It awaits action in the Senate.
The measure, introduced by Rep. John Taylor, R-Philadelphia, would enable local governments to establish land bank authorities that can maintain, develop and resell properties they buy through foreclosures or sheriff’s sales. If Taylor’s bill passes, Pennsylvania would become the ninth state with such a law.
Land banking authorities are an alternative to the traditional method of auctioning foreclosed properties.
“Legislation at the state level … will help communities deal holistically with abandoned properties. They can be moved into public ownership more quickly,” said Kendall Pelling, project manager at East Liberty Development Inc., a nonprofit development corporation working to help revitalize the community.
Abandoned buildings are “impeding community and economic development programs and conveying images of old, worn-out communities,” said Joanna Demming, director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania office of The Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania.
Their impact is felt in communities such as Etna, a close-knit town where men once walked to work in nearby mills. The borough’s population was 7,493 in 1930 but dwindled to 3,560 by 2008, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
“I could see my wife hanging laundry in the yard while I was at work,” recalled Sigmund Dziubinski, 80, of Oakland Street. “It was a different era. You lived and worked in the town.”
Rent, raze or remodel?
The house at 5506 Baywood St. in East Liberty had been abandoned for 10 years and was ready for the wrecking ball, neighbors said.
“It took a leap of faith to rehabilitate it,” said Gary Cirrincione, who lives nearby and serves on the Negley Place Neighborhood Alliance, a community group of “urban activist-types and people with an appreciation of historic housing” that has been working to revitalize the neighborhood for the past 20 years.
“We’ve been called the Woodstock generation,” Cirrincione said.
The effort is paying off; the neighborhood is turning around.
The house across the street from 5506 is being restored. Down the block, another. A couple of streets over, houses that once stood empty contain families.
“We have properties on Baywood that would have sold lower. If you can do the right intervention, you can stabilize the market,” said Kendall Pelling, project manager at East Liberty Development Inc., a nonprofit development group involved with the purchase, sale or renovation of 102 properties during the past three years.
A house bought in foreclosure in 2007 for $55,000 was sold last year for $310,000. Another former tax foreclosure property that underwent extensive renovation is for sale; its asking price is $324,900.
As in neighborhoods in other towns across Pennsylvania, absentee landlords were a problem in East Liberty.
“There’s a tendency to slap a coat of paint on it and rent it as is. … Milk the building, and then walk away,” Cirrincione said.
Darleena Butler watched a lot of rehab work along Baywood in the three years she has lived there. More remains to be done. The house across the street has been empty for a year; the one next door is for sale.
“Instead of tearing them down, remodel,” Butler said. “That brings new life into the neighborhood.”Nobody’s home
Using data provided by the U.S. Postal Service, the Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System classified 8,555 of the 160,000 residential addresses in Pittsburgh as “vacant” during the third quarter of 2009 and another 8,995 as “not ready for occupancy.”
In Allegheny County, 20,730 of 603,000 residential addresses were vacant during that period while 23,387 were not ready for occupancy, the group reported.
Source: Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System
September 17th, 2010House Auction, 705 Brighton Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15233Allegheny WestFriday, September 30, 2010 at 6:45 pm7,000 square foot Chateau-style three-story mansion with 2,000 square foot three-story carriage house (with apartment and garage) and courtyard.• Graciously restored 5 bedroom and 4-1/2 bath home• Reception Hall with fireplace, grand oak staircase, built-in window seats and tables, and original hardwood floor• Parlor with fireplace, crown molding, wainscoting, and original hardwood floor• Dining Room with fireplace, oak paneled walls, built-in cabinets, window seat, and original hardwood floor• Gourmet Kitchen with cherry cabinets, stainless steel appliances, granite tops, and porcelain tile floor• Elevator• Unique original spiral rear staircase• Library and Study with fireplace, built-in oak cabinets and seating• Master Suite with fireplaces, Jacuzzi, walk-in shower and balcony• Fully Insulated with Central air & Forced air heat (zoned)• New slate simulated roof, new windowsContact Karl Owens at Howard Hanna 412-897-0330 to schedule a walk-thru or an inspection.10% Deposit required on the day of sale payable to “Howard Hanna Real Estate Services” and final closing within 30 days. The home will be sold in “as-is” condition with no warranties.
CCAC campus and medical clinic planned for siteThursday, September 16, 2010By Deborah M. Todd, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
During an emotional meeting, at which the death of Councilwoman Millie Devich was marked with a moment of silence and a bouquet of flowers behind her nameplate in council chambers, motions designed to address Braddock’s financial future added to the fervor.
Borough council voted, 4-0, to approve a memorandum of understanding among the borough, UPMC and the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority regarding a plan to demolish UPMC Braddock and replace it with a multiuse facility.
Councilman Milan Devich was not in attendance.
The memo calls for UPMC to pay for the hospital’s demolition, estimated at about $5 million, to make way for the potential construction of a building that would feature a Community College of Allegheny County campus as well as a medical clinic.
Most of the land currently being used for parking would be used for new housing, but the Braddock Avenue lot where the former Sky Bank sat would be turned over to the borough once the Redevelopment Authority acquires the title.
The borough also would receive $90,000 per year for the next five years from UPMC as part of the deal.
UPMC would contribute $3 million toward the proposed $29 million development, but that sum is contingent upon the county receiving $3 million from the state to match the effort.
Solicitor M. Lawrence Shields said the state had already earmarked the funds for the borough.
Mr. Shields said the memo should be considered in conjunction with a recent agreement settling a federal civil rights claim filed against UPMC by council President Jesse Brown.
The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights reached an agreement with UPMC to provide door-to-door transportation for Braddock residents to an outpatient site in Forest Hills and to UPMC McKeesport.
It also requires UPMC to provide six health screenings per year in the community; to have a patient liaison assist residents having difficulties accessing care; to assist health ministries in local churches; and to place strong emphasis on preventative care with its “Steps to a Healthy Community” program.
The agreement is in effect for three years.
“This is a package deal, so to speak, where both of these agreements interrelate,” said Mr. Shields. “Hopefully, through both of these agreements, we believe we’ve obtained the most we could possibly obtain under the circumstances.
“Believe me when I tell you we tried very, very hard to obtain as much as we possibly could for the citizens of Braddock.”
Mr. Brown said HHS representatives would discuss terms of the civil rights settlement at a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Blazing Bingo Hall on Talbot Avenue.
Choking up during some points of his speech, Mr. Brown encouraged religious leaders, residents and public officials to come to hear exactly how much Braddock had gained thanks to efforts by local officials, and how much it stood to lose without those efforts.
“UPMC wouldn’t give us nothing,” Mr. Brown said. “They would have walked away and would have given Braddock nothing. But we do have some services that are a part of this agreement. We’re going to have an urgent care center, which we didn’t have before, that will be beneficial to the residents of this community.”
In the aftermath of the suspension of borough manager Ella Jones, council approved a number of measures designed to detect and prevent fraud.
Ms. Jones, 58, of Turtle Creek is accused of embezzling more than $170,000 from the borough since 2008.
From now on, all paper checks issued can come from only the borough’s general fund and payroll accounts. If funds from the remaining deposit-only accounts are needed in the event of an emergency, the money would have to be transferred to the general fund to write the check.
All emergencies must be explained to council in writing. Council also started a policy of reviewing a list of bills before approving payment each month.
Interim borough manager Paul Leger was authorized to sign off on borough checks, along with Mr. Brown and Vice President Matthew Thomas.
Mr. Leger also was appointed to the Southeast Allegheny Tax Collection Committee for Earned Income Tax Collection. Councilwoman Tina Doose was appointed to the finance committee.
Mr. Leger said the moves were an attempt to bring the borough in line with earlier suggestions made regarding the borough’s financial controls.
“This stuff is boring, but necessary to bring us in compliance with our audit recommendations,” he said.