(This story was updated 3:20 pm 9/06/12)
Pittsburgh City Council has voted to block the pending sale of a residential property to the Highland Park Community Development Corporation (HPCDC), with Council Members portraying the group as tax-delinquent and "abundantly negligent" of its current properties.
Council preliminarily approved legislation to revoke the city's sale of 6046 Jackson Street to HPCDC in 2010, demanding that the nonprofit group publicize its finances and strategic plan before the city allows the transaction to continue. A final vote is scheduled for next Tuesday.
Sponsoring Councilman Patrick Dowd said HPCDC has so far refused to provide its financial information. Dowd, a Highland Park resident, said the nonprofit's financial situation is relevant to this sale because he said the group has left several other residential properties in blighted condition.
"We give a lot of money to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, which then gives a lot of money to this CDC, which does, actually, some good work on Bryant Street in Highland Park, and we need to support that. But they own properties in the residential community which they have -- to the total dissatisfaction of a number of my constituents and myself as well -- they have abandoned the residential sector of the neighborhood," said Dowd.
Dowd said he has never been invited to any HPCDC meetings, which he said are private.
All Council Members present supported Dowd's bill, including Councilman Bill Peduto. He said HPCDC cannot legally buy property from the city while some of its other properties are tax-delinquent.
"In other words, if you have the money to buy new property, pay your taxes," said Peduto.
The Highland Park Community Development Corporation disputes many of the statement made in council chambers. HPCDC President David Hance said representatives of his organization met with Councilman Dowd in his office in June and invited him to the group’s August 27th meeting. According to Hance, Dowd tolld him at the time that his schedule would not allow him to attend.
Hance also contends that the HPCDC is not in arrears on its property tax obligations. He said Dowd was simply wrong in that statement.
The councilman met Wednesday night with Hance and other members of the all-volunteer CDC board. The president said the meeting was a good one that featured a “frank discussion” and he believes the CDC and the councilman will move forward on areas of mutual concern.
The HPCDC agrees with Dowd and the community that the residential properties in question are concerning. Hance said a dumpster was rolled onto the site “two weeks ago” and that the buildings have been boarded up and the surrounding property has been cleaned.
The HPCDC has been in talks with developers that might be interested in working on the large homes that were cut up into several apartments by previous owners. Hance said the soft economy has hindered the group’s efforts but he thinks recent interest in the neighborhood and other development efforts in Highland Park have helped their efforts. “We agree with the community and are frustrated as well” at the lack of development on the parcels.
Currently, the HPCDC is not eligible for federal Community Development Block Grant funding for the care of residential property. Hance said the inability to access the funds has made it difficult for the CDC to maintain its residential holdings. He said he hopes the recent meeting with Dowd will result in more funding coming the way of the Highland Park Community Development Corporation.