URA Evaluating Development Proposals For Part Of Former Penn Circle

Feb 10, 2016

The site of the URA's Mellon's Orchard South development.
Credit Urban Redevelopment Authority

Pittsburgh changed street names in East Liberty almost two years ago to distance itself from the 1960s urban renewal project "Penn Circle," which displaced thousands of residents in favor of a pedestrian mall.  

Kevin Acklin, the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority’s board chair, said the project, no longer in use, was one of the city’s biggest design mistakes. Now the authority is moving forward in reversing the effects of the project that pushed residents out in droves.

A committee will choose from the eight development proposals for a 2-acre lot at Station Street and Euclid Avenue next to McDonald's. The proposals were submitted in January. 

The committee charged with picking a developer is made up of URA staff members, Pittsburgh City Council members and residents -- including members of the tenant council at Penn Plaza, who will be given first dibs on apartments once they are finished.

“As East Liberty continues to change, the mayor’s vision is to make sure that we’re behind community-driven development so that the residents who are there who have lived through the hard times of the community are able to participate in the future of East Liberty,” Acklin said.

The project calls for mixed-income, mixed-use development. Acklin said the interest from developers proves that it's possible to include affordable housing in a neighborhood with growing market-rate development.

“We put restrictions on this site that we wanted to see 80 percent affordable housing, which is one of the deepest levels you’ve ever seen in the city," he said. "And we have at least eight different respondents who said, 'Yeah we can do this. We want to be part of the growth in East Liberty.'"

Acklin said the committee will give the board its recommendation within the next 30 days, followed by community input and a board decision.