Menu Contact/Location

North Side homes delayed-Sewer regulations force developer to seek aid

Pittsburgh Post GazetteTuesday, May 22, 2007
By Diana Nelson Jones,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A slope of grass on Federal Street, freshly mown days ago, was to have had six townhouses by now. But no deadline ever takes complications into consideration.

After a November ground-breaking for the Federal Hill townhouse project on the Central North Side, the developer’s engineering firm was planning to handle the water and sewer connections.

But when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority received plans from the engineers, after requesting several revisions to each of the first two, it informed the co-developer, the Central Northside Neighborhood Council, that sanitary and storm sewers had to be separated and the main line replaced.

Jerome Dettore, executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said that as more planning became necessary, “it became clear that public funds were needed.”

The URA recently requested $400,000 from the water and sewer authority board for the project, which calls for 60 homes, 40 condos and a smattering of apartments, most on Federal Street, some on connecting side streets.

The soonest the authority would act on the request would be at its June board meeting.

“Our hope now is to get a tap-in plan approved for the entire development,” said Rebecca Davidson-Wagner, executive director of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council. “Even if we can get [approval] for the first six houses, we may be under construction by August or September.”

Mr. Dettore said developers often pick up the tab for small infrastructure upgrades, but for a project this large, and one that involves the city, the water and sewer authority typically allocates the money for water and sewer reconstruction. The URA will pay for street and sidewalk upgrades, including an island planter that will separate northbound from southbound traffic on Federal.

The first phase of six homes is being financed by a variety of sources for $1.8 million.

Water and sewer authority spokeswoman Holly Wojcik said the agency originally requested corrections and changes on preliminary designs from Trant Engineering. Early this month, however, she said the URA hired Michael Baker Corp. to design the improvements.

Ms. Davidson-Wagner said the company was chosen for its experience with city infrastructure.

About 80 percent of sanitary and storm sewer lines in the city are combined, said Ms. Wojcik. “When we have significant rainfall, they overflow,” delivering sewage into groundwater. “Ultimately, you want them to be separated.”

(Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at or 412-263-1626. )

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633