Thursday, June 28, 2007

URA Green-Lights Phase Two of Penn-Fairmount Master Plan

From the July 2007 issue of The Bulletin

On June 14, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) approved $1.8 million in grants and loans for the planned Glass Lofts in Garfield,also known as “Phase Two” of the Penn-Fairmount Master Plan. The public funding will allow construction on the lofts to begin, possibly at the end of July or in early August, according to Friendship Development Associates (FDA), which put the deal together.

The Glass Lofts, a mixed-use construction at the corner of Penn Avenue and North Fairmount on the site of the former Eat’n Park, will consist of 18 loft-style condominiums, a restaurant space, offices, and artist studios.

As designed by Arthur Lubetz Associates Architects, the condos vary insize, from 850 square feet on one floor, up to 1900 square feet on two floors, with prices ranging from $127,500 to $360,000. The units have open floor plans so that buyers can divide the spaces as they choose, and all have concrete floors and exposed ceiling ducts and pipes for a hip industrial look. They come with full kitchens, laundry hook-ups, and balconies with full glass doors. Indoor parking spaces are available for the larger condos, while residents in the smaller ones have access to an outdoor parking lot.

The construction will consist of two buildings joined by a bridge, and will be environmentally friendly and energy-efficient, or “green.” The project committee that approved the plans for the Glass Lofts decided that “lower-income buyers would be interested in the lower utility costs” that “green” buildings provide, according to Sarah Collins of FDA.

The units should be completed and available for move-in sometime in summer 2008. Collins said FDA has already fielded requests from potential buyers.

The Penn-Fairmount Master Plan, a project totaling $23 million, is a joint, community-driven venture of FDA, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. (BGC), Affirmative Investments, Garfield Jubilee, and Presbyterian Senior Care. It has been in the works since 2002, when community meetings made the area a priority for revitalization and determined how best to use the land at the intersection of Penn and Fairmount. The first phase, the Penn Fairmount Apartments on Penn Avenue, a low-income senior housing facility with retail space on the ground floor, had its grand opening last fall.

The plan also includes the rehabbing of seven older homes in the 100 block of North Fairmount by the Pittsburgh Housing Development Corp. and the BGC. Work on four of the homes began in December of 2006, and should be 50 percent completed by the fall, when renovation on the additional three homes will get underway. Each rehabbed house will offer a three-bedroom unit for the buyer, and a one-bedroom apartment for a possible tenant.

Because the Penn-Fairmount Master Plan is in a designated Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ), a state program that provides tax breaks to distressed urban communities, residents and businesses occupying the various spaces will enjoy property tax abatement through the end of 2010.

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