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Development could mean new life for Braddock

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 3:41 a.m.
Ken Doyno, principal in Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, was instrumental in planning 'The Overlook' and served as master of ceremonies for Tuesday's groundbreaking there. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

On Oct. 16, 2009, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said it would close its Braddock hospital.

“We got the worst possible phone call,” Braddock Mayor John Fetterman recalled.

“It was a blow and it was disappointing,” said Braddock resident and Mon Valley Initiative executive director Laura Zinski.

A week short of three years later, groundbreaking took place Tuesday on The Overlook, the first portion of a multi-use complex planned on the 3-acre hillside laid bare by demolition of the 103-year-old hospital.

The Overlook is a planned 24-apartment development to be accompanied by 11 single-family homes, commercial space and a public park.

“Today, the circle is closing,” Fetterman said.

“It is a good day for Braddock,” said council president Tina Doose.

The Overlook required an $8 million private investment, leveraged with tax credits and augmented by $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding.

“(U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) help was critical to this,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said.

Tax credits allocated by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency were purchased by Fifth Third and Huntington banks through tax credit syndicator City Real Estate Advisors.

“We're honored and excited to be part of this,” Fifth Third Bank market president Julie Hughes said.

“Today is a very humbling day ... to see all the hard work that is being done,” said Brian K. McDonnell, City Real Estate chief operating officer.

Work began within weeks of UPMC's announcement. Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County consulted with a working group and contracted with Jackson/Clark Partners and Trek Development Group for a reuse plan.

UPMC provided $3 million to match $3 million in state funds meant for the hospital.

“We asked, ‘What happened to that $3 million?'” state Rep. Paul Costa, D-Wilkins Township, said. “‘We haven't used it yet,' they said, so I called Gov. Ed Rendell,” whose administration reassigned the $3 million toward the new plan.

Trek president Bill Gatti has roots in Braddock. He grew up there and relatives ran the old Gatti Pharmacy.

“The unwavering support of Allegheny County was absolutely vital,” Gatti said.

Trek partnered with Mistick Construction and architectural firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative.

“Good architects are visionaries,” Gatti said. “They truly embraced Braddock.”

AWK Development was employed as site engineer and surveyor and Mon Valley Initiative and its affiliate, the Braddock Economic Development Corp., were brought in.

“When it is completed, what will be here will be better than what we had in the past,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, who recalled walking up and down Braddock's hills when his father worked at U.S. Steel's Edgar Thomson Plant.

“It's new beginnings,” lifelong Braddock resident Phyllis Brown said.

Brown's church, Unity Baptist, was created out of the merger of Willow Way and Bethel Baptist congregations. It has purchased the former Immanuel Lutheran Church sanctuary alongside the former UPMC Braddock site.

“We're looking to move in (to the church) in about a month,” said the pastor, the Rev. Richard Wingfield.

Highmark Inc. and MedExpress are planning an urgent care center on the former UPMC site. Office and retail space also are anticipated.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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