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Mayor's Office Encourages More Public Input On Penn Plaza

Sarah Schneider
90.5 FM WESA

Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Planning Commission rejected plans to redevelop the former Penn Plaza site in East Liberty, saying not enough public input was given. Last week, the developer filed an appeal saying there had been ample opportunity for public input.

Before the appeal was filed, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff Kevin Acklin said the administration stood behind the commission’s decision and will stay involved.

“We will be just as vigilant moving forward that this development take into account the community’s concerns in East Liberty and hopefully to provide an open table for those concerns to be addressed,” Acklin said.

The development plan for the site, which use to contain low-income housing, would include 200 market rate apartments and retail space, including a Whole Foods store.

The development has become a focal point for those fighting what they see as gentrification, forcing out more traditional low- and moderate-income residents to make way for younger middle-to-upper income residents.

The redevelopment of the property was planned to happen in two phases. Half of the new taxes created by the first phase would have been set aside for future affordable housing development. Acklin said the city and developer have not been able to come to an agreement for the second phase that would protect low-income housing.

“We have to also be mindful that this is private property, so the investments made and the development is one that we hope will continue but only if it takes into account the concerns of the East Liberty community with respect to affordability,” he said.

Nearly 100 low-income residents were displaced when the Penn Plaza housing development was demolished.

Acklin said the administration’s goal for any development in the city is to have as many voices at the table as possible, but none of them should dominate.