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Developers look to put townhouses on lot between Dormont, Mt. Lebanon

Matthew Santoni
| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Developers are working on a new plan for a prominent but long-vacant piece of land in Mt. Lebanon — potentially revitalizing a major “gateway” into the community.

Representatives of Downtown-based Zamagias Properties presented the Mt. Lebanon Planning Board with plans to build about 27 townhouses at Washington and Bower Hill roads, on a lot they once hoped to turn into a high-rise full of luxury condominiums.

That plan fell through for lack of buyers in 2008, and the land has been empty ever since. The developers have mentioned other possibilities, including apartments and a retirement community, but are moving ahead with the latest proposal for townhouses.

“We're just looking forward to something being developed, soon,” said the Rev. David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bernard Parish across Washington Road from the site.

“We want to be good neighbors and want to see this site developed, because it has been empty for too long.”

Located between Dormont's West Liberty Avenue business district and Mt. Lebanon's Uptown district, the site is zoned for a higher-density, high-rise style project, so Zamagias will need permission from the town's zoning hearing board for the plans as well, said Mt. Lebanon planner Keith McGill.

“They seem to be reasonably confident, if they're successful with their appeal to the zoning hearing board, that the project would be financially feasible,” McGill said.

Zamagias representatives couldn't be reached for comment, and Strip District-based Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, the architecture firm working on the project, declined to comment.

Zamagias Properties' portfolio is mostly office and retail developments, including Robinson Towne Center and the Times Building on Fourth Avenue, Downtown.

The three-bedroom townhouses with two-car garages would be priced between $300,000 and $400,000, McGill said, and the project would include about 18 public parking spaces along Washington Road.

The latest concept adds more townhouses, and subtracts a “signature” building of condos or apartments with underground parking from the corner of the lot. Developers proposed both types of housing last year.

Zamagias determined the underground or structured parking necessary for an apartment building would have made the project too expensive, McGill said.

Jim Scalo of Burns & Scalo Real Estate said it's harder to have successful condominium and townhouse projects in the Pittsburgh market, where rental apartments have been more popular, but he believes Zamagias officials would have done their homework before settling on the current proposal.

“They've probably been listening to the market, and that's what the market's been telling them,” Scalo said.

The Mt. Lebanon Zoning Hearing Board could hear Zamagias' application as early as Dec. 12.

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

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