Pittsburgh Officials Tell Feds To Fix Property Transfer Program So City Can Take Over Former VA Site

Jul 13, 2017

The Peduto administration is hoping a recently passed program aimed at reducing the number of unused properties held by the federal government will help the city take control of the former VA site on Washington Boulevard.

Pittsburgh wants to take control of the unused VA site and convert it into a first responder training facility and a storage area for heavy equipment

Mayor Bill Peduto's Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin appeared Wednesday before a house committee investigating the impediments to implementing the now 6-month-old Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act. (FASTA)

Acklin told the House Transportation and Infrastructure; Oversight and Government Reform Committee the city has been working to get the site for months and he can say the slowdown is not due to federal staff.

“This is not a people problem, you have a process problem. The folks that we’ve worked with have been responsive, they’re smart, they know their business," Acklin said. "But the red tape that it takes to convert this property to productive use is standing in the way.”

Acklin said the move would allow the city to put the valuable land currently dedicated to equipment storage back on the tax rolls.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R-11), who chaired the hearing, said the project to convert the 164-acre site is a great example of why the FASTA exists and a solution to the bureaucratic delays must be found.

He said if they can figure out how to cut through all the red tape, the deal could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

“Our budget over the next five years assumes that we will move forward with this site, so we’re ready to go,” Acklin told the committee. “If it were a commercial deal, it would be done by now.”

Acklin, who chairs the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority, said this is the type of deal that the authority does all the time using city-owned property, so he knows it can be done at the federal level.