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Mt. Lebanon hires help to pitch project over 'T' line

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mt. Lebanon officials will get help pitching a one-of-a-kind development that would be built above the light rail transit tracks and station in the municipality's central business district.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved hiring Mechanicsburg-based planning firm Delta Development Group Inc. for a maximum $25,000.

Delta will help the municipality write a request for proposals to detail what sort of development commissioner want to see built on a series of decks above the tracks that run between the Washington Road businesses and Shady Drive.

Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron said Delta was one of three companies bidding for the work, and the agency impressed the selection committee with the possibility of seeking two rounds of proposals.

The first would lay out a broad set of requirements for the project, and the second would get more specific with developers who express interest.

“They would cast ... a broad net, then do a quicker evaluation to narrow down the developers to invite back for a second round,” said Commissioner John Bendel, a member of the committee that recommended Delta for the job.

Milliron said Delta “would dedicate a significant portion of the project budget up front to scouring the area and seeing what kind of project makes sense there.”

Delta has consulted on a variety of projects in Pennsylvania and other states, including an update of Cranberry's comprehensive plan and a revitalization blueprint for part of Gettysburg's commercial district.

Mt. Lebanon's main business district lacks large parcels of developable land, but officials hope to use the “air rights” once owned by the now-defunct Mt. Lebanon Parking Authority for a transit-oriented development, where commercial and residential space could be clustered near the “T” public transit line.

A study released last year estimated that building steel and concrete decks would cost about $36.4 million. But the study said developers could then establish an office or condominium tower above the tracks, a parking garage above an improved Mt. Lebanon Station, and a public plaza and stairs connecting them to the businesses above and the residential neighborhood below.

Milliron said one of Delta's advantages over the other bidders was its experience with transit-oriented development projects and the mix of financing options that usually go into them.

Mt. Lebanon Manager Steve Feller said more funding for Delta or another consultant to perform a detailed study of the real estate market could come from Mt. Lebanon's estimated $829,000 surplus from 2012.

Spending would be subject to public review and comment at a hearing on July 22.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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