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As Last Remnants Of Penn Plaza Torn Down, Advocates Demand Affordable Housing

Joaquin Gonzalez
90.5 WESA
O'Harold Hoots and Karen Edmonds were two of about thirty protesters gathered to oppose demolition of the remaining building at the Penn Plaza apartments site in East Liberty.

A crowd of about 30 people gathered at the former Penn Plaza apartments in East Liberty on Thursday, where the development’s owners are tearing down the remaining building. 

They demanded the land be sold to the city of Pittsburgh and used to build tenant-owned affordable housing, chanting, “We are here to stand and fight, housing is a human right!”

Crystal Jennings, a member of the Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition, was among the protesters pushing a clear message.

“LG, sell the property," she said. "Just do it.”

LG Realty Advisors is the parent company of Pennley Park South. In January, their plans to develop the 7-acre lot at South Negley and Penn avenues with apartments and a Whole Foods Market were rejected. The city is fighting the company in court, Jennings said, but should keep putting pressure on developers.

“East Liberty is not the only area,” Jennings said. “They’re pushing out to Homewood, they’re pushing out to Wilkinsburg, they’re pushing out to the Hill District.”

Over the sounds of demolition, protesters called for comprehensive affordable housing policies. One speaker suggested,“Eminent domain for the public good.”

The city has offered to buy the Penn Plaza site since 2015. Those offers were refused and the company has no obligation to sell its land.

O’Harold Hoots has lived in East Liberty all his life. He called Penn Plaza “the Heartbreak Hotel,” and said it’s been a sad situation.

“Stop giving big tax breaks to all of these developers who come into this city,” he said. “And take some of that money and put it toward affordable housing for the people who used to reside in these buildings and in this area.”

The site is the subject of ongoing litigation. City officials would not comment. The attorney for Pennley Park South was not immediately available for comment.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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