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Homewood Redevelopment Bill Passes, Despite Opposition

Despite opposition from a handful of community residents, Pittsburgh City Council passed a measure Tuesday that allows for a $10 million redevelopment of vacant lots in Homewood. The lone "no" vote came from Councilman Bill Peduto.

The developer, Homewood Station Senior Housing LP, is slated to build a four-story structure at the corner of North Homewood Avenue and Finance Street. The building would include 47 units of senior housing, with the first floor reserved for commercial activity. In addition, a former post office next door would be transformed into a cafe. Construction is scheduled to begin in October and conclude in late 2013.

East End Councilman Ricky Burgess sponsored the legislation, which lets Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority sell five vacant lots to Homewood Station for $61,500. If the bill is signed into law, the URA and the state government will cover the project's $10 million price tag.

Five Homewood residents protested the project at Council's meeting on Tuesday, arguing the bill should be held for a public hearing. The residents complained that there has been a lack of community involvement.

"Let's call it redevelopment, [but] what it is in our community is actually gentrification," said Raqueed Bey, a Homewood resident. "Development should start from the inside out."

However, Councilman Burgess contested the notion that the public hasn't had the opportunity to get involved. He said the opponents of the project have had the chance to testify at several URA community meetings and Zoning Board hearings over the course of two years. Burgess characterized the opposition as an angry handful that's out of synch with Homewood's population of roughly 5,000.

"Since they have been unsuccessful at the community meetings, they were, I believe, unpersuasive at the hearing and zoning committee, and so at the n'th hour they have come to try to find a way to kill the largest development to occur in Homewood in 15 years," said Burgess.

Homewood Station couldn't afford to wait any longer for the bill's passage, said Burgess, because a delay in the project's start date could jeopardize state tax credits.

Just nine people signed the petition to hold a public hearing on the Homewood Station redevelopment; the threshold for a successful petition is 25 signatures. Only Council Members Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak voted in favor of a public hearing.