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Politics & Government

Zoning Changes Prepare Homewood for Long-Term Redevelopment

Now that construction has begun on a low-rise apartment building for seniors in Homewood, the Pittsburgh City Councilman who represents the neighborhood has rezoned the community's business district to accommodate three or four additional apartment buildings.

Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess said the $11.5 million apartment building being constructed near the East Busway, called "Homewood Station," is the first phase of a long-term plan from Oxford Development Company and Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). He expects it to be finished this fall, with leases starting January 2014. The project was largely financed with a $10 million state grant.

Burgess said the plan is to build four or five large apartment buildings along North Homewood Avenue, including commercial space at street level.

"The URA has already submitted to the state government for tax credits of Phase Two, which would be a second apartment building with storefronts on the first floor; apartments on the second, third, and fourth floor; and 21 townhouses that will be rental for 15 years and then home ownership for 15 years after that," said Burgess.

"The people who live in the apartments actually provide two roles. Not only do they buy from the merchants, but they are also eyes on the streets, and they also can provide a built-in security for that area," said Burgess.

According to the councilman, another potential benefit of combining commercial space with apartment buildings is to return residents to Homewood's struggling main street.

"It used to be very vibrant, but now the people are away from the business corridor," said Burgess. "So what this does is it starts to build, by using public investment, we begin to bring some of those residents who are on the fringe of the community into the heart of the community."

A handful of Homewood residents spoke in opposition when City Council passed legislation in July to apply for the $10 million state grant for Homewood Station. One of the speakers called the new development "gentrification" of the community. However, the opposition to the redevelopment plan failed to get the 25 signatures needed to delay the legislation for a public hearing, and the bill passed.

Burgess said another developer has expressed interest in building an unspecified entertainment venue at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and North Dallas Avenue, a project which he said would spur development in Homewood ever further.