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Pittsburgh URA approves loans for two downtown office-to-affordable housing conversions

Smithfield Street at Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
Smithfield Street at Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority approved $4.875 million in loans Thursday for two projects aimed at converting vacant or underutilized downtown office space into affordable housing.

Between Hullet Development’s Triangle Building and Beacon Communities' First and Market Project, the two developments will collectively create more than 100 new residential units Downtown, URA officials said.

The board approved a loan up to $3,075,000 for the renovation of the First and Market Building, 100 First Avenue for 93 affordable senior apartments, and voted to increase a previously approved loan to Hullett Development by $1,800,000 for the renovation of the Triangle Building at 926 Liberty Avenue. Eight of the Triangle building’s 15 units will be affordable, according to URA officials.

Such conversions can be costly and difficult, experts have said, due to a variety of factors.

Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman spoke before the meeting and lauded the projects.

“We are pleased to see this investment being made in our urban core at a time when we need it most,” Pashman told board members. “The allocation of this funding is a critical next step to creating a future downtown Pittsburgh neighborhood for all.”

The units will mostly be affordable for people with incomes at or below 80% of area median income — about $64,250 for two people.

Average rents in greater downtown are $1,393 monthly for a studio, $1,666 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,132 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to research from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Thursday’s vote means the URA has committed all the federal pandemic ARPA funds it had allocated for its Pittsburgh Downtown Conversion Program project. ARPA dollars must be under contract by the end of 2024 and expended by the end of 2026.

“Downtown is the heart and soul of the entire region, and these conversion projects are a critical piece of making sure that Downtown remains that way for generations to come,” Mayor Ed Gainey said in a press release earlier this week. “Everyone who works Downtown should have an opportunity to live Downtown, and as we move to transform historic office space into housing, we must have affordability in mind in order to build a Downtown for all.”

Thomas Link, Chief Development Officer for the URA, thanked the city and state for their investment in the program.

“This program is able to help deals work,” he said.

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.