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Judge strikes down requirements for Penn Plaza development

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 4:12 p.m.

An Allegheny County judge has ruled in favor of a developer’s plans for the former Penn Plaza Apartments property in East Liberty, striking down Pittsburgh Planning Commission requirements that the company include a public meeting room capable of accommodating up to 100 people and limit building heights to 108 feet.

Pennley Park South, a subsidiary of Downtown-based LG Realty Advisors, appealed the Planning Commission’s May 15 approval — contingent upon the height restriction and community room — of preliminary development plans for two 150 foot high buildings on the property along Penn Avenue.

Senior Judge Joseph James on Monday ruled in favor of Pennley Park.

“The court hereby finds that the Planning Commission properly approved the (plan), but that the Planning Commission improperly imposed the Conditions…,” James wrote in a four-page opinion. “For the avoidance of doubt, the height limitation associated with the (plan) is one hundred and fifty (150) feet. In addition, the condition … imposing the ‘community room requirement’ is hereby stricken in its entirety.”

Planning Commission Chairwoman Christine Mondor declined comment.

“We are very pleased that the court and Planning Commission approved of our plan,” Lawrence Gumberg, president of LG Realty Advisors, said in a statement. “We are moving full speed ahead with our development.”

Gumberg previously said the height condition could torpedo the project..

The $150 million development plan includes space for offices, a parking garage and ground floor retail and reconfigures Enright Parklet, which abuts the property.

Pennley Park has been locked in a three-year battle over the project with city officials and community activists, who contend it compounds gentrification in East Liberty.

This is the second time the company has gone to court over a planning commission decision about the property.

The commission in 2016 rejected the company’s redevelopment plans. Pennley Park appealed the decision and reached a settlement with the city and community groups that resulted in a revised plan.

Penn Plaza, built in 1968, was part of an urban renewal effort that provided housing to low-income and market rate tenants and resulted in the mass demolition of homes and businesses. About 228 people lived in Penn Plaza in 2015, when LG Realty notified residents it intended to close the complex for redevelopment.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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