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Sharpsburg gets $25 million federal grant to improve riverfront access for proposed development

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Some of the money will go toward building a ramp from the Highland Park Bridge down to the site.

A nearly decade-long development dream of turning a former Sharpsburg scrapyard into a riverfront village is $25 million closer to reality thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve access to the site.

The DOT grant to Sharpsburg would give access — by bridge, by road, by bike trail — to the 1.5 mile slice of Allegheny River shoreline between the Highland Park and 62nd Street bridges. Sharpsburg and The Mosites Co., the development company that owns the brownfield site, have been working on transforming those 52 acres into Allegheny Shores. It’s a vision of a village with room for businesses and housing — 15% of which the developers say will be deeply subsidized. And it includes about 10 acres of public park beside the river. But progress has been slow because it’s hard to get there.

The federal funds will lighten the loads on the local roads and spur development of the brownfield, according to Steve Mosites, a partner in the Allegheny Shores project. “It gives us much greater traffic capacity and ease of access in and out,” Mosites said. “Our Pittsburgh region has been great at redeveloping brownfields, but it's hard to get regional access to this. It’s a real unique situation.”

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The money will go toward building a ramp from the Highland Park Bridge down to the site — connecting it directly to Route 28 and the Pittsburgh region. They propose to build a road across the property with entrances at 13th and 19th Streets. The 19th Street entry would open up to a public plaza overlooking the water. The work would also include blazing a missing link in the Three Rivers Heritage trail to connect the newly built Allegheny RiverTrail Park in Aspinwall to the trailhead in Millvale that travels to Point State Park. There would still be a missing link between between the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Millvale via Etna.

In addition, some of the grant will go toward improving existing Sharpsburg bus stops with things like shelters and lighting.

The borough hopes if they build the public infrastructure, the private investment in the project will come. “Right now — because there’s no infrastructure, roadways, utilities, there’s nothing there — it’s hard to convince somebody to come in and build a housing development or build retail space,” said Christine DeRunk, Sharpsburg’s manager.

A key part of that first phase of development will be affordable housing. The developers have been working alongside ACTION Housing, a Pittsburgh-based affordable housing developer, since the start. It’s a plan to extend riverfront real estate beyond luxury apartments. And it’s not a common sight, according to Linda Metropulos, consultant to ACTION Housing.

“I think it's an amazing opportunity for lower income individuals to participate in all the richness of living along a riverfront,” Metropulos said. “The nature and just the beauty of that site is remarkable.”

Mosites wants to time the Highland Park ramp construction with current bridge work and have construction underway within the next few years. Right now, they’re working with utility companies like Alcosan, Duquesne Light and the Shaler Water Authority to set up needed infrastructure so they’re able to start constructing buildings at the site. The goal, he said, is to have buildings up and ready to move into by 2027 or “spring of 2028 at the latest.”

Corrected: June 26, 2024 at 12:28 PM EDT
This story has been updated to make clear that the project would not provide a link between Millvale and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail via Etna.