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City, Community Groups Reach Agreement With Penn Plaza Developer Over Housing, Enright Parklet

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Sticky notes at the Penn Plaza site on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

After more than 1,000 hours of mediated sessions and discussions, the city of Pittsburgh and community groups have reached an agreement with the developers of the former Penn Plaza site, to ensure affordable housing and green spaces remain in East Liberty.

The former Penn Plaza site has been a symbol of East End gentrification for affordable housing activists and neighborhood advocates. More than 200 residents were evicted from the affordable housing complex and the final remnants of the building were torn down in June to make way for new development. 

A second East End Whole Foods was once slated for development at the site. Meanwhile, the site's owner, LG Realty Advisors, has been embattled with the city over ensuring future affordable housing. In February, the city prepared to file an injunction against the company

However, the city announced Friday that it reached an agreement with LG Realty Advisors to ensure an East End Affordable Housing Fund to help finance mixed income housing, to be located within 1 mile of the site.

“Something had to be done, we cannot just go ahead and displace people without trying to get them a place, affordable housing in a nice, decent place to live," said City Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge.

The agreement also says that Enright Parklet will be redesigned and improved for community use. Additionally, a retail and office space development will also be built with a "robust public process," prior to approval.  

Sanchez-Ridge said the agreement resolves half a dozen lawsuits between the city and the developer. The city accused LG Realty of providing unsafe living conditions for residents; the developer accused the city planning commission of unlawfully rejecting its initial development plans.

“The planning commission denied the property owners’ plan because it was really not complete," said Sanchez-Ridge. "There were conditions to it and they did not meet the conditions so it was denied.”

LG Realty president Lawrence Gumberg praised the city and community groups for their collaboration. 

"We thank them for their efforts and look forward to working together to build a signature project for East Liberty and the City," he said in a statement. 

Mayor Bill Peduto echoed Grumberg's sentiment, but added that the displaced East Liberty residents must be remembered. 

“The global resolution of these important and diverse individual, neighborhood, business, commercial and governmental issues is one of the most gratifying experiences of my professional career," Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement. 

Affordable housing activists have called out Peduto in the past, saying the city didn't do enough to help low-income residents of Penn Plaza. 

However, Peduto has said his administration went "overboard" to help displaced residents

Sarah Kovash previously worked as a web producer for KDKA-TV, as a freelance journalist for the Valley News Dispatch covering local government throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley and at NPR station KPBS in San Diego.
Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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