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East Liberty Development Thriving; Hill District Falls Behind

POSTED: 1:20 pm EST January 24, 2008
UPDATED: 6:01 pm EST January 24, 2008


PITTSBURGH — The tale of two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, both with harsh histories, is stirring up some controversy around the area.

East Liberty is in a renewal while many say the Hill District is being left behind.

The latest East Liberty development, announced on Thursday, will use a mixture of private investment loans and tax money.

Residents in the Hill District are still fighting for the city to set up a fund for development.

So, why does it work in one neighborhood and not the other?

The old downtown YMCA building in East Liberty hasn’t been used in years. Soon, it’s going to be turned into 35 brand new lofts thanks to a developer who hopes to breathe new life into the historic building.

According to developer Mark Meiser, the lofts will range upward of $250,000.

“First-time homebuyers, I think, is probably the biggest target market,” said Meiser. “Single women, I think, in particular with the medical market that is here in Pittsburgh.”

The project also includes renovating dilapidated duplexes on Rippey Street into eight condos in the $150,000 price range.

“Part of this plan is to eliminate that horrendous circle and restore the traditional historic street grid pattern with homes, and those homes will be explicitly affordable to a single moms with four or five kids,” said state Sen. Jim Ferlo.

“This project will rehabilitate and preserve several significant buildings in East Liberty while addressing the community’s needs for decent and affordable housing and encourage development in a community that’s fallen on hard times,” said Rep. Mike Doyle.

In the Hill District though, the One Hill Coalition is pushing the city for money. It wants the renewal that’s happening in East Liberty to happen in the Hill, too, but that effort has hit struggle after struggle.

WTAE Channel 4 Action News reporter Bob Mayo asked Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to explain what’s the difference between East Liberty compared to the community-controlled funding Hill District activists are seeking.

“Well, this is different in that, you know, this is project-specific, and we’ve been very clear with the folks in the Hill District: project-specific projects are things we’re more than willing to fund,” said Ravenstahl.
Carl Redwood, of the One Hill Coalition, said he believes the scope of the Penguins new arena deal should set the stage for something different.

“There are a number of project-specific proposals that are taking place right now in the Hill District that the city is supporting,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that there was an additional fund because of the new arena that was created, that could be under more community control.”

“I think we can be creative and find ways to fund projects in the Hill District just like we found ways to fund a project like this one,” said Ravenstahl. “And so I think that discussion has evolved and has moved to a good point.”

But Redwood said the Hill District community feels it knows best how to move forward with its neighborhood’s development.

“They gave the Penguins full control of all the parking revenue on the Urban Redevelopment Authority controlled parking spaces. They didn’t ask them for project specific things. The revenue goes to the Penguins. That’s not project specific. They changed the rules for the Penguins, but they won’t change them for the community.”

Story courtesy of WTAE TV:

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