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Developer plans townhouses with 'secret' view of Downtown Pittsburgh

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Jasmine Goldband
Sierra Development LLC partner Gil Berry (left) and Keller Williams realtor Chris Ivory stand near the site where four new houses will be built in Pittsburgh's Elliott neighborhood. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Jasmine Goldband
Keller Williams realtor Chris Ivory (left) and Sierra Development LLC partner Gil Berry stand at the site where four new houses will be built in Pittsburgh's Elliott neighborhood. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

A site in Pittsburgh's Elliott neighborhood may soon sprout housing that will take advantage of its panoramic but lesser-known view of Downtown.

A developer is planning to build four 4-story townhomes and is offering incentives to buyers who may be interested.

Sierra Development LLC, the developer, plans to build them on a quarter-acre of land off Marlow Street, at the West End-Elliott Overlook.

City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith calls the Elliott overlook a “secret” and ranks it along with Mt. Washington in offering a “spectacular view” of the city.

“Although there are other areas nearby the Overlook available for housing, this will be the only one with a site that is available for housing that overlooks Downtown,” said Kail-Smith, who represents the neighborhood.

The developer anticipates a spring construction start. A general contractor must be selected, which will occur after a bidding process, said Gil Berry of Clairton, a partner with Jeffrey A. Smith in Sierra Development.

Total cost of the project will depend on the winning construction bids, he said.

Plans are to offer special incentives to the first four buyers who sign up during a 90-day period, which will begin after an event on Friday to introduce the project, said Dr. Howard B. Slaughter Jr., a housing consultant working with Sierra.

“The houses will be priced at $890,000 each, but the first buyers who sign up benefit from a tax abatement plan offered by the city, school district and county, and receive a $50,000 deferred second mortgage, which requires no payment during a 10-year period,” he said. That will reduce the price to $840,000.

The tax abatement provides a $250,000 reduction in the assessed valuation of the property from the city and school district for 10 years, and a $86,750 reduction from the county for three years, he said.

Buyers who purchase after the 90-day period will get the tax abatements but not the deferred mortgage, said Slaughter, president of Christian Management Enterprises LLOC, which he founded in 2010.

Slaughter previously served as vice president of community development for Dollar Bank, Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional Director and CEO of the Fannie Mae Pittsburgh office from 1999 to 2007, as CEO of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation's Landmark Community Capital Corp. and is currently a director and chair of the policy committee for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

All houses will be built only under contract, Berry said..

“We are pleased that the developer is offering high-end houses,” said Gena Turner, president of the Elliott Community Group, who said the Elliott Overlook has long been a secret spot for viewing Downtown.

An existing vacant house on the site will be demolished, she said.

Each townhouse will be energy-efficient and offer a sky deck, elevator from a garage to the fourth level, more than 3,800 square feet of living area, a fireplace, and a Downtown view that includes the Point, Heinz Field, PNC Park, Rivers Casino and Carnegie Science Center.

“It will offer a view of Pittsburgh's three rivers,” said Chris Ivory of Keller-Williams Realty, who will be marketing the townhouses.

Sierra has owned the property since September 2011, when it was purchased from Dr. Wolfgang and Daisy Loskens for $225,000.

Since then, the developers held three community meetings about the project, Berry said.

Both Turner and Councilwoman Kail-Smith said the community supports the project.

Financing is being arranged with local lenders, who will not only provide funds for construction but are expected to offer financing, Slaughter said. No lender has been selected.

Sierra Development also plans to develop a Sav-A-Lot grocery store in Clairton, once financing is obtained.

A spring 2013 construction start is scheduled. Clairton City Council approved the project.

Sam Spatter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7843 or

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