$90M Larimer redevelopment proposal spurs debate by company, community
Disagreement could threaten a $90 million redevelopment proposal for one of Pittsburgh's most depressed neighborhoods.
The Pittsburgh Housing Authority wants to replace 155 units of low-income housing in Larimer, where the median income is barely half that elsewhere in the city, but residents say the proposal clashes with neighborhood planning that began years ago.
A $30 million federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant and $10 million in state tax credits — for housing and social programs — hinge on agreement.
“They refuse to acknowledge that this community process is a legitimate process and the interests that are represented in this process are legitimate interests,” said Malik G. Bankston, executive director of Kingsley Association in Larimer, which provides support programs for children and families in need.
“Their attitude is they know what's best for the neighborhood. We say, ‘By virtue of what? What is it that uniquely qualifies you to know what's better for this neighborhood?'”
Caster D. Binion, the housing authority's interim executive director, and Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess, who chairs the authority and represents Larimer on council, said disagreement can be expected in any large community project. They believe resolution will happen.
“At the end of the day, it will take all members of the community working together to achieve a goal. We're doing that now,” said Burgess of North Point Breeze.
The Housing Authority's plan combines several elements inextricably linked and includes a housing proposal by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority.
The authority is partnering with East Liberty Housing Inc., a nonprofit that owns the East Liberty Gardens housing complex, to demolish 155 units of low-income apartments, including Hamilton-Larimer in Larimer and East Liberty Gardens.
Binion said HUD regulations require the authority to replace the apartments with an equal number. Forty of those, he said, would come through the URA. It hired Columbus, Ohio-based KBK Enterprises to build 40 low-income and 10 market-rate houses on vacant property the URA owns in Larimer. The cost is about $15 million, and KBK applied for $10 million in state tax credits, according to Robert Rubinstein, the URA's interim executive director.
The Housing Authority plans to use the URA project to leverage a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods grant.
Development in East Liberty, including Bakery Square II and a Target store, could spill into Larimer if the neighborhood improves, officials said.
“Larimer is all connected to this success, but it doesn't show it physically,” said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. “We have a chance to rebuild that neighborhood.”
If it receives the grant, the Housing Authority must come up with $60 million, which could include cash from government and foundations and the in-kind value of services provided by schools, nonprofits and health care providers, Binion said.
Community members say the KBK plan conflicts with an unfinished master plan that lays out locations for residential, commercial and recreational properties. The company did not return Tribune-Review calls or emails.
Bankston said KBK has not participated in planning and is unwilling to give people a say in locations for housing. KBK's plans ignore stipulations for housing to incorporate storm-water management devices such as rain barrels, gardens and building materials that maximize heating and cooling efficiency, he said.
Bankston said KBK refused to donate up to $3,000 for each unit it builds to a neighborhood fund that would offer grants and loans to homeowners for property repairs.
Roland Criswell, 35, owner of Coston Funeral Home in Larimer, said a bigger problem is that residents don't think the city included them in the development process.
“It's important for Downtown to really listen to what the residents want,” he said.
In August, then-Housing Authority Executive Director A. Fulton Meachem Jr. suspended planning for the HUD grant. No one can say why, and the Trib could not reach Meachem, now CEO of the Charlotte Housing Authority.
Planning started anew last week, but Bankston said residents' distrust lingers.
“One of the things we learned by a lot of the community development work that was done in the 20th century was that if you put the wrong things in the wrong place, you'll live with the negative consequences and the fallout of that for 50 years,” Bankston said.
“All you have to do is look at East Liberty. It's taken 50 years to undo the mistakes that were made when East Liberty was redeveloped.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys
- Highmark asks patients to ‘Meet Dr. Right’
- 2 from Carrick charged in connection with rash of heroin overdoses
- Development could soon be booming in West End
- Police confiscated cellphone of driver who struck 7-year-old girl Thursday
- Justice halts religious groups’ birth control opt-out role
- Teachers union advises lawyers for colleagues of Plum pair investigated on sex charges
- Pitt, Penn State faculty found to receive better-than-average pay
- Voters wishing to cast ballot in May 19 primary must register by Monday
- Allegheny County sheriff’s deputy mending from Family Court scuffle
- Heinz Endowments looks to smart urban planning for Pittsburgh moment