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Downtown & East Liberty to Benefit from State Grants

Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority will use a pair of state grants to restore building facades downtown and help build a new parking garage in East Liberty.

Yarone Zober, chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said $4 million is set aside for revamping building fronts downtown. He said the rennovations are meant to complement recent downtown development projects, such as Market Square. Zober said the goal is to attract new businesses and possibly increase the downtown population with upper-story apartments.

The Thompson Building and several Wood Street structures will definitely be rennovated, said Zober, but city leaders are still deciding on the full list of restorations.

The second grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development will put $4.5 million toward a new parking garage in East Liberty. Zober said the construction of the garage will allow apartments to open in the Highland Building and the nearby Wallace Building, what he calls the "pinnacle" of redevelopment in East Liberty.

"For over 20 years, it's been vacant. A vacant building right next to restaurants and bars where people stop, eat, play, work [and] drink, and businesses," said Zober. "So what this is going to be is partnering with Walnut Capital to convert these to residential, and this money specifically is going to be used for a parking garage to support that residential."

Zober said all of the projects will take several years to complete. He said the grants were originally announced by former Governor Ed Rendell, along with several others. Zober said one of those pending grants, not yet authorized by Governor Tom Corbett, would help the city convert 60 acres of riverside brownfield in the Strip District into a commercial and residential zone.