Larimer bakery tax plan advances
Allegheny County Council’s economic development committee has advanced the proposed tax breaks for redeveloping the old Nabisco site on Penn Avenue in Larimer, but without giving the plan its blessing.
Council has been asked by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to approve $10 million in tax increment financing for Walnut Capital Development Inc.’s Bakery Square project.
That money, which uses future tax proceeds to pay off development bonds, includes $5 million toward making roads around Penn Circle two-way and installing new traffic signals, and $5 million for development of an 849-space parking garage.
Robert Rubinstein, URA director of economic development, said the bonds will be backed with tax revenue from the site on which Walnut Capital Development plans to build office and retail space in addition to the garage and another 350 parking spaces. The tax increment financing does not apply to a 120-room hotel planned for a site next to the former bakery.
The committee, while sending the plan to council for a vote, did so without recommending that the council pass it. Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said he was concerned about statements by the developers that he believes have not been documented.
Mr. Robinson wanted details of a $50,000 promise that Walnut Capital made to the community. Mr. Rubinstein said $35,000 would be used for job training and $15,000 will be used to spruce up part of Larimer Avenue.
Mr. Robinson said he wanted to know which community groups the developer had agreements with and what those agreements were.
Maurice Strul, a business development specialist from the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, said he had not had time to get answers since Mr. Robinson first raised the issue last week.
“If he represents the district and he has concerns, he has a right to those concerns,” Councilwoman Jan Rea, R-McCandless, said.
Mr. Rubinstein said after the meeting that the money going to the community for job training and neighborhood improvements was being paid by the developers and not from public money.
The overall project is estimated to cost $105 million to $125 million and is planned for property where the Nabisco bakery stood for 80 years before it closed in 1998. It was taken over by Atlantic Baking Group in 1999 and cookies were again baked there, but in 2004 the company that had become Bake-Line filed for bankruptcy and closed the bakery for good.
The tax increment financing plan has been placed on council’s agenda for Tuesday.
First published on September 6, 2007 at 12:00 am
Ann Belser can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1699.