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Former residents of Downtown Pittsburgh’s Roosevelt building can return

Downtown Pittsburgh skyscrapers in the foreground, with the Allegheny and Ohio rivers and Acrisure Stadium behind them.
Jakob Lazzaro
90.5 WESA
Tenants who had lived in the Roosevelt building downtown who were displaced by a fire last December will be able to return.

Tenants who had lived in the Roosevelt building downtown who were displaced by a fire last December will be able to return.

The Penn Avenue building, which housed a mix of subsidized and market-rate apartments, was the site of a deadly fire last December. Following the blaze, the building’s owner and manager told residents they would have to quickly move out to allow for major, building-wide repairs due to serious water damage.

A group of tenants who lived in subsidized units went to court against building owner LWE Roosevelt LP and property manager NDC Real Estate Management LLC to fight for more time to find other affordable housing. A Common Pleas judge agreed with the tenants and allowed them to move out over a longer period of time this spring. Some tenants said they were happy living elsewhere, but some struggled with having to leave downtown and move to suburbs with less access to public transit. Now, with repairs and renovations complete, those residents can return to the Roosevelt if they wish.

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“All former residents of the Roosevelt Building who lived in a HUD-assisted unit at the time of the fire are invited to return to a HUD-assisted unit in the building at this time,” said Kevin Quisenberry, one of the attorneys who represented the low-income residents in the building. Attorneys from nonprofit legal aid organizations Community Justice Project and Neighborhood Legal Services represented tenants.

Residents must remain income-eligible for housing assistance. If residents want to move back to the Roosevelt, they should inform the management as soon as possible, Quisenberry said.

Tenants who had rented market-rate units are able to move back as well, and the building will remain a mix of both subsidized and market-rate apartments, said Jonathan Kamin, an attorney representing the building’s owner and manager. He said repairs are nearing completion and some tenants have already moved back in.

Quisenberry said it was important that a major source of affordable housing downtown has been preserved. Many of the building’s elderly and low-income residents did not drive or own cars and wanted to remain in or near downtown.

One former tenant WESA contacted last week was unaware she could return. Others said they were uninterested in going back.

“Absolutely not,” said former resident Percetia West. “I have so much peace over there where I’m at,” in the North Side.

“Everybody I talk to, they’re comfortable where [they’re] at,” she said.

Former Roosevelt residents can call the Community Justice Project at 412-434-6002 or Neighborhood Legal Services at 412-255-6700 for more information

Kate Giammarise focuses her reporting on poverty, social services and affordable housing. Before joining WESA, she covered those topics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for nearly five years; prior to that, she spent several years in the paper’s Harrisburg bureau covering the legislature, governor and state government. She can be reached at or 412-697-2953.