KEITH B. KEY and REV. RICKY BURGESS
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency has awarded $1 million in low-income housing tax credits for a plan to redevelop Pittsburgh’s Larimer community.
The Housing Authority of The City Of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority applied for the funding in September after selecting Keith B. Key as the developer for the first phase of the plan. As a result, construction of 40 new mixed-income housing units can begin this summer.
Pittsburgh Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, who represents Larimer and also chairs the housing authority board, said he learned of the award March 14 and is elated.
“This is part of the ongoing effort to revitalize the community,” he said. “I promised the residents of Larimer I’d do whatever I could to redevelop their community. This is the first step.”
As laid out in the Larimer Plan, this the first phase of a projected $100 million redevelopment effort that calls for 300 new units of mixed-income rental and for-sale housing, as well as retail and light manufacturing space to Larimer.
The housing will be a draw for those who want to take advantage of the blossoming social and commercial amenities in neighboring East Liberty and will revitalize a neighborhood that has long been neglected.
“It’s my understanding that there has been ongoing dialog about this. It’s important that the people of Larimer know development is finally coming,” said Burgess.
Initially, some stakeholders voiced concerns about the first phase, noting that neither Keys’ nor his representatives had met with the Larimer Consensus Group that created the updated Larimer Visioning Plan in 2010.
Others, notably Kingsley Association Executive Director Malik Bankston, objected to Keys initial development scheme, which would have placed all the low-income housing units along the “gateway corridor” defining the entrance to the neighborhood.
During a September meeting at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, Keys, Burgess and representatives from the housing authority and URA showed the plan submitted to the state did not place the low-income units “out front,” nor did it cluster them in the center and create new “projects.”
The meeting also addressed some fears that in the rush to secure tax credits, only low-income housing would be built.
“The real benefit to this tax-credit award is we can show (the US Department of Housing and Urban Development) that we have the ability to leverage funding, which is key to winning $30 million in federal Choice Neighborhood tax credits,” said Burgess. “McCormack Baron is the lead developer for that application.”
Keys’ firm was to have released a press announcement on the financing award March 19, but had not by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline. Burgess said the timetable for completing the first phase is 18 months, meaning the new units could be occupied as early as January 2015.