Little scraps of land and traffic islands are scattered throughout East Liberty, but for a long time nobody knew who owned many of them.
This is the problem East Liberty Development Inc. (ELDI) ran into while trying to acquire a parcel of land for redevelopment.
“This is the challenge of rebuilding our city is that we have lots of narrow, little pieces of land,” Kendall Pelling, ELDI Director of Land Recycling, said. “And so to do a new development often times it requires acquiring property from multiple different owners.”
The most recent strip of land ELDI is in the process of buying is located across the street from Target on Penn Avenue and is owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The land previously belonged to the Urban Redevelopment Authority but switched ownership when Penn Circle changed back to two-way traffic.
According to Pelling, the unknown ownership made it difficult to require anyone to maintain the land, so the neighborhood depended on volunteers and local officials to take care of it.
“It would always be kind of a poorly maintained median,” Pelling said. “So we were able to assemble two of the three adjacent properties, one of which was abandoned for more than a decade and the other we purchased from a local investor.”
The 144 by 10 foot parcel has an appraised value of $19,000.
Pelling said ELDI is teaming up with Alphabet City Development to put together a plan for a new building on the land.
“That would be a six-story building that would have class A office space on the upper floors and high quality retail space on the first floor,” Pelling said. “So that’s the ultimate plan with this little sliver of land is to integrate it with the other parcels next to it and be able to do a high-quality development at this corner.”
The proposed building will replace 6119, 6121 and 6123 Penn Avenue.
Pelling said the purchase of land will complete the land assembly needed to build the office and retail building and Alphabet City Development is in the process of lining up tenants.