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Developer banking on Tarentum

| Tuesday, March 11, 2003

TARENTUM: A Pittsburgh developer can begin to put together more concrete plans for a riverfront housing development in the borough.

In a 6-3 vote, council voted Monday night to amend an ordinance that would allow apartments on First Avenue along the Allegheny River between Adams and Wood streets.

The Acorn Group hopes to build a three-story, 36-unit apartment building in the area.

Scott Rittman, president and CEO of the company, said the upscale apartments will include such amenities as an elevator, a view of the river from every apartment, and garages.

However, in a time when almost every family has two cars, parking issues continue to be the major concern of some council members.

Councilwoman Ginger Sopcak said although she supports the project, she's concerned that the conceptual drawing doesn't allow for ample parking. Councilman Joe Schneider agreed.

They were joined by Councilman Chuck Behanna in voting against the amendment.

The borough's ordinance indicates that there must be one space for each unit. Attorney Kevin McKeegin, who is representing the Acorn Group, said his client is going beyond what the borough requires and is proposing 1.5 spaces for every unit.

Rittman, a Brackenridge native and Highlands High School graduate, also showed a conceptual drawing that would put 21 spaces on Wood Street by adding perpendicular parking. The parking would be open to the public, and it would be up to borough officials to allow the spaces to be installed.

Council President Carl Magnetta said the last thing he wants to do is jam the streets, but he said the complex will give the borough a much needed boost.

"I think once we get into the planning stage, it will be very, very exciting," Magnetta said.

McKeegin said he believes riverfront development will draw people in.

"We believe this is a project that, if we can move forward, it will be an asset to the community," McKeegin said.

"It's something that's going to be attractive and upscale, and lead people to the river."

Councilman Tim Cornuet asked if the development group can guarantee that the complex won't be turned into subsidized housing.

McKeegin said the fact that the complex will have indoor parking will add $1 million to $1.5 million to the cost of the project. It also will include the elevator, and the apartments will be quite large at about 1,100 square feet apiece, the lawyer said.

"I think we have all but eliminated subsidized housing in this project," McKeegin said.

Rittman also said that although rent hasn't been established, it will be well above $500 to $700 per month.

He said the corporation has a purchase agreement for four lots, two of which include homes that would be demolished.

The two men said the proposed development still is in its conceptual stage, and a lot of work remains to be done.

Rittman said the next step will be to continue working with local and county government to obtain all approvals and permits.

If all goes well, ground could be broken by spring 2004, Rittman said.

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