ShareThis Page
News

History mourned in East Liberty project plans

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, 11:27 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved plans to demolish part of this block near the intersection of Penn and Highland avenues in East Liberty to make way for apartment buildings, upsetting some area preservationists.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
The Pittsburgh Planning Commission approved plans to demolish part of this block near the intersection of Penn and Highland avenues in East Liberty to make way for apartment buildings, upsetting some area preservationists.

Plans for an 89-unit apartment building in the heart of East Liberty are moving forward despite concerns from some historical preservationists and Mayor Bill Peduto.

“So much of East Liberty's historical commercial core has been lost, and it would be disrespectful to lose more of it in the name of development,” said Ellen Kitzerow, chairman of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh.

In a letter to the city's Planning Commission, Peduto added: “The proposed plan does not adequately respect the historical nature of the Penn Avenue business corridor,” part of a commercial district that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Walnut Capital Partners received conditional approval Tuesday from the commission to tear down four buildings near the corner of Penn and Highland avenues to make way for a six-story building with street-level retail space and apartments on the upper floors. The project is expected to cost $10.5 million. The state's historic commission previously approved the proposed demolition.

Some attending the commission meeting voiced concerns about the proposed demolitions, citing the neighborhood's history. Local leaders razed many East Liberty buildings in the 1960s in a failed attempt at urban renewal. After decades of decline, recent redevelopment has brought with it many new commercial and residential buildings, breathing new life into surrounding areas such as Larimer.

Shadyside's Walnut Capital restored the nearby Highland and Wallace buildings, establishing the 117-unit Walnut on Highland apartment buildings, which are fully leased with a waiting list.

“We wish every building could be preserved, but sometimes that can't be done. You have to take a reasoned approach,” said Walnut Capital President Todd Reidbord.

East Liberty Development Inc. owns the buildings targeted for demolition, including the former home of Bolan's Candies. Ironically, the agency bought them in 2006 to save them from being razed for a parking lot.

“I think after eight years of struggling with them, it's time to move forward,” said ELDI investment officer Skip Schwab, noting the group spends about $9,000 a month to hold onto the buildings. Two previous attempts to redevelop them failed.

The planning commission approved Walnut Capital's demolition and construction plans with caveats. Conditions include requiring the developer to catalogue and preserve the old buildings' facades and to come up with a plan to use more elements of the facades in the new construction.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me