Whole Foods to become anchor tenant of Pittsburgh Penn Plaza development | TribLIVE.com
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Whole Foods to become anchor tenant of Pittsburgh Penn Plaza development

Paul Guggenheimer
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LG Realty
A Whole Foods will anchor Liberty East, the development planned for the Penn Plaza site in East Liberty. This rendering showing the mixed-use development of nearly 246,000 square feet of office space, 4,600 square feet of retail space, nearly 700 vehicle parking spaces, and parking for 60 bicycles.

Whole Foods Market is signing on to be the anchor tenant to a large redevelopment project in East Liberty, officials said.

The project’s developer, LG Realty Advisors, made the announcement Monday that Whole Foods has signed a lease to occupy 50,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of a nine-story building.

The building will be constructed at the corner of Penn and Euclid Avenues at the site of the former Penn Plaza apartments.

“We’re beyond excited. They are the ultimate amenity,” said Zach Gumberg, principal and managing member of LG Realty Advisors. “It’s widely known that Whole Foods has been trying to expand this store in East Liberty for a long, long time. This new store will give them the size they need to offer the amenities that they want to offer their clientele.”

Whole Foods Market currently has a store on Centre Avenue in East Liberty, but it’s not clear if that location will remain open past 2021, when the new store opens. Whole Foods representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The new grocery store is part of the first phase of development at what is known as Liberty East, a $50-million-project that includes nearly 246,000 square feet of office space, an additional 4,600 square feet of retail space, and nearly 700 vehicle parking spaces and parking for 60 bicycles. Whole Foods will have exclusive parking for 287 vehicles directly underneath the store.

The announcement marks a successful conclusion to a somewhat rocky courtship that saw Whole Foods pulling out of the development because of the controversy surrounding it.

Former residents of Penn Plaza and community activists staged protests, saying the complex compounded neighborhood gentrification, and argued for inclusion of affordable housing to replace apartments lost due to the demolition of Penn Plaza.

As part of the development, LG Realty will contribute more than $2 million for the city’s East End affordable housing fund as well as contribute $1 million to rebuild and improve a small park adjacent to the site.

A court settlement stipulated that 70% of increased tax revenue after the project is completed would be split, with half going toward affordable housing and improvements to the park. Under the court agreement, the affordable housing must be built within three-quarters of a mile of the new development.

“As longtime members of the East Liberty community, we look forward to continuing to serve our neighbors here and providing them with a much more comprehensive and exciting shopping experience,” Scott Allhouse, president of the Mid-Atlantic region of Whole Foods Market said in a press release.

Construction for the first phase of Liberty East is expected to begin by fall. Completion of phase one is scheduled or the summer of 2021.

“We believe this project will be transformational for the city of Pittsburgh and for the Penn Avenue section of East Liberty. It will reconnect East Liberty with Garfield and create a wonderful economic engine for the East End of Pittsburgh,” said Lawrence Gumberg, founder and president of LG Realty Advisors.

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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