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$175M in 3 Port Authority of Allegheny County transit projects in talks

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:37 p.m.

Port Authority of Allegheny County is negotiating with developers to start three projects on its property this year costing more than $175 million.

Although the agency will neither spend nor make a lot of money on any of the projects, all stand to add substantially to the tax rolls.

Two leases are entering final negotiations, and the bargaining period for a third will be extended.

“The negotiations are ongoing. ... We've just had to devote a lot of our resources to (projects in) East Liberty and Castle Shannon,” Port Authority Counsel Mike Cetra said.

The $65 million East Liberty Transit Center and the $36 million Shannon Transit Village, two proposals for apartments and retail next to the East Busway and Red Line light rail, respectively, are in the last stages of approvals and lease negotiations, Cetra said at a committee meeting Wednesday.

Port Authority could break ground on its $34 million busway station improvements by late summer or early autumn, and a developer could break ground in Castle Shannon by November or December, he said.

If the Port Authority board approves on Friday, lease negotiations on a third project — a $41.5 million, 360-unit apartment complex proposed for a former parking lot near South Hills Village in Bethel Park — will be extended for six months so officials can have more time to work with Massaro Dawson, a joint venture of Findlay-based Massaro Properties and the Atlanta-based Dawson Co.

The projects will put untaxed land on tax rolls, generate ridership and get the private companies leasing the land to take over the expense of upkeep, said John Tague, chairman of the planning and stakeholder relations committee.

Cetra said he'll ask the board in May to approve selling the former bus loop off Penn Avenue to the Downtown-based Mosites Co. to become part of its EastSide project, which stretches from Whole Foods to Target.

Partner Steven Mosites said he wants to put three apartment buildings there, with shops and restaurants along Penn Circle and Penn Avenue, two levels of parking going down to the railroad and busway, and an access road connecting South Highland and Penn avenues.

Cetra said officials aim for a June 30 closing on the agreements.

Proceeds from the sale, plus state, county and federal grants, will pay to revamp the busway station, he said.

“(The current East Liberty) site we can all recognize as outdated, outmoded,” said Paul Svoboda, special projects manager for the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

In Castle Shannon, developer Jim Aiello Sr. wants to build a parking deck and 128 apartments in an eight-story high-rise with ground-floor retail, all above part of the park-and-ride lot off Castle Shannon Boulevard.

Maurice Strul, assistant director of special projects and financing at the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County, said the project would require about $12.8 million in infrastructure improvements funded with a mix of state and county grants and bonds to be repaid with some of the tax money the project generates.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5625or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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