The Community Builders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday at the site of the new East Liberty Place South development.
The building will feature 52 units of mixed-income housing, as well as 11,000 square feet of commercial space. Thirteen of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be priced at market value, with a tenant income cap of $55,000-75,000, depending on family size.
Six of the apartments are geared toward very low-income residents, including people with physical disabilities who live off disability benefits.
The remainder of the units will fall somewhere in between, according to Bart Mitchell, president and CEO of the nonprofit The Community Builders.
Mitchell said mixed-income housing is consistent with the mission of his organization.
“We would like it to benefit everybody in the community,” he said. “The neighborhood is still redeveloping … and if it does get stronger and stronger, (we want to make sure) that people aren’t going to all get priced out.”
Mitchell expects the building to be LEED Gold certified, the same standard achieved by East Liberty Place North, which is already completed and sits just across Penn Avenue from the new development.
U.S. Congressman Mike Doyle said the certification is important for economic as well as environmental reasons.
“Pittsburghers need homes that they can heat without breaking the bank,” Doyle said. “That’s why I want to commend The Community Builders for making it a priority to construct energy efficient homes.”
In addition to increased energy efficiency, the building will feature non-toxic paints and fabrics and LED light fixtures both inside and out.
East Liberty Place South is the fifth mixed-income development that The Community Builders have built in the neighborhood. In addition to East Liberty Place North, the nonprofit is responsible for New Pennley Place, Pennley Commons and Penn Manor.
Mitchell said he believes that the investment in those residential developments helped spur additional investment in the area.
“Those are some necessary predecessors to go first, I believe, before people started investing in Target and other places,” he said. “Mixed-income housing can be not only a great housing solution, but foster other community development.”
Mitchell, whose organization is active in 15 states, said he often finds that people across the nation are interested in the East Liberty story.
Pennsylvania State Representative Ed Gainey, whose district includes East Liberty, said he is appreciative of the efforts of The Community Builders to revitalize the neighborhood.
“Because of your developments, you have removed a lot of the blight out of the East Liberty community, we have reduced crime significantly in the East Liberty community,” Gainey said. “We couldn’t have done it unless we had a partner that was willing to sacrifice … to birth something as beautiful as the new East Liberty.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl agreed, saying that larger projects like the Target store have gotten more attention, but that does not mean they are more important.
“You probably read less about projects like this, like East Liberty Place North and now East Liberty Place South,” Ravenstahl said. “(These developments) really create the vibrancy and the opportunity that we want to see in these neighborhoods.”
Mitchell said The Community Builders will also be making a $5 million investment in the East Liberty Transit Center.
Construction of East Liberty Place South is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2014. Nearly two-thirds of the project’s funding came from private investors, while the remainder was provided by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development.