East Liberty Park To Remain Public After Pressure From Residents

Mar 23, 2016

City Planning Director Ray Gastil speaks to council Tuesday during a public hearing.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

East Liberty residents hoping to keep a public park out of the hands of a private developer have scored a victory.

The city released a statement Tuesday evening saying Enright Parklet would remain publicly owned, and would not become part of the redevelopment of Penn Plaza.

The announcement came shortly after a public hearing in City Council, in which neighbors spoke out against the rezoning of the park.

The parklet is surrounded by Penn Plaza, the mixed-income apartment complex set to be redeveloped next year. The developer wants to change the residential property to mixed use with possible retail space. It had also wanted the park as part of the change.

East Liberty resident Sally Ann Kluz told council members at a public hearing Tuesday that watching her neighbors be evicted from their homes in Penn Plaza, and leave the community, has been traumatic. She applauded the work of the mayor and council members to address the lack of affordable housing, but said the loss of public space would have detracted from the community.

“It’s a disservice to our current, our past and our future communities of East Liberty to yet again cavalierly redevelop the site, and this time without a master plan in place,” she said.  

Kluz echoed several speakers who urged council to table the rezoning proposal until a master plan for the site is developed. City council hasn’t addressed the possibility of a master plan for the area.

Residents told stories of meeting friends at the park and the many uses it has served. They pleaded council to not give away the park as a public space.

Council President Bruce Kraus told speakers he heard their concern for public green space and moving forward he will work with council members to protect those areas.

“I just think the overall comfort level of residents at large is raised if they know that if a zoning change is approved, what is going to come as a result of that zoning change?” he said.

In a statement, the city said any changes to Enright Parklet would come only after a "detailed public process."

"There is an opportunity for a better park and a better project," Planning Director Ray Gastil said.