Mayor: City will attempt Plan C without eminent domain
By Dave Copeland
Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Without completely ruling out its use, Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy said the city will attempt to implement the Plan C Task Force proposal for redeveloping Downtown Pittsburgh without using eminent domain.
“We have not authorized eminent domain. So when we approach a building owner now, we will be negotiating with them amicably in attempting to come to a fair price without the threat of eminent domain there,” Murphy said this morning. “We are ruling it our right now, but I can’t speak for the future.”
The task force unveiled a strategy for redeveloping the Fifth-Forbes retail corridor last month. The group had urged Murphy back down from a November 2000 pledge to not use eminent domain, saying it would take too long to redevelop Pittsburgh’s tired retail core without using the controversial technique.
Murphy’s renewal of his pledge yesterday brought at least temporary relief to opponents of eminent domain.
“As long as we’re not using eminent domain, I can support the plan,” said Patty Maloney, one of three Plan C Task Force members who signed a minority opinion against using eminent domain. Maloney acknowledged that the mayor had allowed for some wiggle room to use eminent domain in the future, but said she was pleased overall with comments Murphy made during his 45-minute press conference Tuesday morning.
The task force was formed after Murphy’s own plan, Market Place at Fifth & Forbes, unraveled in late 2000. The mayor charged the group with forming a consensus on redeveloping Downtown. Among the chief criticisms of the mayor’s first plan were its failure to preserve historic buildings, the use of eminent domain, and what was seen as a limited housing component.
Murphy also outlined a five-point plan for moving forward with the task force’s recommendations. Among the components of that plan:
The city planning department will issue a request for proposals to interested developers.
Once a developer is selected, the city will hammer out a financing plan. Murphy said it was too soon to say whether or not that plan would resemble the one recommended by the task force, which called for a $360 million development with $51.5 million in public money, $39.5 million in corporate and philanthropic donations and $264 million in private investment.
Begin an $8 million infrastructure improvement in the Central Business District, with a focus on reconstructing Forbes Avenue, Smithfield Street and Market Street.
Direct the Urban Redevelopment Authority to expand a grant program for restoring building facades, as well as create new loan programs to allow existing tenants and building owners to improve the condition of their properties.
Begin a strict and aggressive program to enforce existing city building codes in the Fifth-Forbes area.
Dave Copeland can be reached at email@example.com or (412) 320-7922.