Pittsburgh URA considering $55.5 million plan for former Allegheny County 911 center
The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board on Thursday agreed to consider a $55.5 million redevelopment plan for the Lexington Technology Park in North Point Breeze despite vocal opposition from residents.
Lexington Partners of Pittsburgh LLC, consisting of Columbus, Ohio-based KBK Enterprises and ICON Development of East Liberty, is proposing 150 apartments and townhouses on the 16-acre property along with the rehabilitation of several existing buildings for commercial and light industrial use. The property owned by the URA was originally the home of Rockwell International and later the former site of the Allegheny County 911 emergency dispatching center.
The residential section would include 125 apartments with 50 of them affordable for low-income residents and 25 townhouses to be offered for sale at market rates. The remaining apartments would be offered for lease at market rates.
URA board members unanimously agreed to negotiate exclusively with Lexington Partners for 60 days before scheduling votes to sell the site. Executive Director Robert Rubinstein said the company agreed to extend existing streets into the complex and was the only bidder offering to develop the entire site.
“They emerged as the team that was most responsive to community feedback,” he said.
Eleven residents of North Point Breeze and surrounding communities disagreed, saying they opposed the project.
They argued that the residential portion planned for 4 acres was too dense for the neighborhood and that it didn’t offer enough affordable housing, among other things.
“There is no reason to cram all of those units into these 4 acres,” said Vivienne Shaffer, a North Point Breeze homeowner who lives about a block from the site. “The density is the greatest threat to the neighborhood that we hold precious and call home.”
Judith K. Ginyard, of North Point Breeze, said city officials, particularly Councilman Ricky Burgess of North Point Breeze, ignored complaints from residents during community meetings. She and other residents asked the URA to consider a proposal from Action Housing of Pittsburgh, which also bid on the property, that included 100 affordable housing units.
“The process was not as transparent as it has been described to you today,” she said. “I would implore you not to vote on this today. Come back to the residents … and listen to what we have to say.”
Burgess said his office twice sent letters to 2,400 homes in North Point Breeze and South Homewood updating residents about the project and asking for feedback. URA officials said they held at least a dozen meetings in the community and received positive feedback from the North Point Breeze Community Development Corp., which supports the project.
Burgess said the proposal would return the 16 acres to tax rolls and could lead to more affordable housing in surrounding blocks.
He described the criticism directed at him as a political attack. Burgess is running for re-election next year.
“This was Rockwell International,” he said. “The density argument is interesting for a site that was dense with workers years before.”
URA board members agreed to specifically address neighborhood concerns over density and affordable housing during its negotiations with Lexington Park.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct amount of the project.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobbauder.