TribLIVE

| News


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Variances OK'd for Strip project

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

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

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
  2. Growth spurs expanded staff at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
  3. Millions in pollution fines went unused for decades in Allegheny County
  4. Group’s proposed fracking moratorium for Allegheny County parks to go on council agenda
  5. Brentwood police chief to get nearly $200K as part of settlement agreement with borough
  6. Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
  7. Franklin Park mulls ban on feeding deer
  8. New Kensington man killed when other driver attempts to avoid deer
  9. Pittsburgh police beef up presence on streets for city’s Light Up Night
  10. State leaders give input on budget woes at Pittsburgh meeting
  11. Allegheny County 911 call center opinions diverge
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.