Variances OK'd for Strip project
Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday likely ended a six-month standoff with Buncher Co. over zoning for a $400 million development proposed for the Strip District.
Council gave preliminary approval to legislation that would permit Buncher to exceed building density and height limitations, among other things, on its 55-acre property. The site consists mainly of vacant parking lots between 11th and 21st streets, from Smallman Street to the Allegheny River.
“We're pleased that it passed, but it's only one step in a long process,” said Thomas J. Balestrieri, Buncher's president and CEO.
The legislation resolves a point of controversy over how much space Buncher should provide between the development and the Allegheny River. A compromise amendment proposed with Buncher's blessing requires the company to provide 70 feet of space — 75 feet between the Veterans Bridge and 16th Street.
City regulations require just 50 feet, although critics wanted the company to provide 95 feet, saying that would allow restoration of the river edge to its natural gradual slope and provide enough room for a park, walking trail and wildlife habitat.
Buncher plans 11 structures including residential, office and retail space with landscaping, the trail and park, and a wide boulevard along 17th Street, ending at a riverfront plaza the size of Market Square. It also includes partial demolition and renovation of the historic Produce Terminal on Smallman.
Council split on the legislation 5-4 with Patrick Dowd, Natalia Rudiak, Bruce Kraus and Bill Peduto voting no.
In an impassioned speech, Dowd urged council to reject the bill, calling the development the “essence of mediocrity.”
“It is nothing more than a gated community in the Strip District that blocks public access,” he said. “We are accepting nothing more than mediocre.”
Council President Darlene Harris, who voted for the bill, said she hoped to persuade Buncher to provide more space along the river for public use.
“This property does not belong to the city of Pittsburgh. This property belongs to the Buncher Co.,” she said. “I wish we could have had 95 feet. We can't force them into what maybe we would like.”
Council is expected to approve the legislation in a final vote next week, but that won't end the controversy over the development.
Buncher is seeking a $50 million tax-increment financing plan in which the city would use extra property taxes generated by the development to repay loans for such items as water and sewer lines.
Dowd has refused to introduce TIF legislation. The legislation falls under the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which Dowd chairs.
“I'm still holding the TIF (bill),” Dowd said. Buncher hasn't said whether the TIF is a deal-breaker.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- Pittsburgh airport improvements noted as CEO tries to expand activity
- Developers share their vision for Garden Theater block on North Side
- Volunteer tutors boost adult literacy in Allegheny County
- National Night Out ‘a start’ for violence-prone Homewood
- Downtown Macy’s building to lose OASIS to closer parent organization
- Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s banding program a labor of love for avian expert
- Allegheny County Council candidates chosen for District 11 ballot
- Newsmaker: Harry J. Gruener
- Roman Catholic Church in midst of culture clash over gays
- 2 killed in single-vehicle crash in Pittsburgh
- East Liberty man arrested in connection with Larimer shooting