With the completion of the Greater Hill District Master Plan, the Urban Redevelopment Authority has issued a massive Request for Proposals to begin developing public and private properties centering on the Centre Avenue business corridor.
City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle hailed the announcement.
“This is a milestone for the Hill District and presents a rare opportunity in which neighborhoods’ interests and markets can be aligned,” he said. “It will be a process of rebuilding and that’s always tough. But I’m ready for all that it brings.”
The RFP covers 37 publicly owned lots, including the current site of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Zone 2 Station and 23 privately owned parcels, the bulk belonging to Central Baptist Church and its development corporation.
These parcels represent the first phase of planned development along the Centre Avenue corridor and stretch from the Dinwiddie/Devillers Street intersection to Soho Street. The second phase will include development opportunities extending from Kirkpatrick Street to the Centre Avenue/Reed Street intersection.
Marimba Milliones, the executive director of the Hill CDC who is working with the URA to promote and market the neighborhood and its opportunities, called the Centre Avenue development critical to the community and the city.
Her immediate focus, she said is making sure the community remains engaged in development proposals at every step.
“There’s a lot at stake, but we are excited by the challenge,” she said. “ We spent a lot of time getting community input and vision into the master plan. So, our development process will be centered on the principles of the people and will be keen on sustainability and market viability.”
The community principles in the master plan to which all development projects in the Hill must conform. These include
•Building upon the Hill’s African-American cultural legacy;?
•Creating family friendly housing development without displacement;
•Economic empowerment and commercial development;?
•Including green and sustainable design and,
•Improving mobility, transportation and parking.
Though within the boundaries of the development site area, Granada Theater is not included in this RFP. It is the subject of a separate Hill CDC/URA development proposal that also includes 19 other parcels on the same block bound by Centre Avenue, Wylie Avenue, Devilliers Street and Erin Street.
Milliones said there would be more news on that once her campaign to raise $500,000 for a predevelopment budget is complete.
The RFP also makes particular note of a need for parking in the corridor and has marked eight lots along Hemans Street and Festus Way as good site parking development with the caveat that the spaces should be for public use and not for a specific development project.
The 28-acre site of the former Civic Arena, though mentioned in the “neighborhood market conditions” section of the document is also not part of this RFP. It is owned by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The master plan for this site replaces the arena and surrounding parking lots with the historic street grid for a new mixed-use neighborhood. Homes will be built facing the successful mixed-income Crawford Square community. New office and retail space will be developed adjacent to Downtown. A new park is proposed across Crosstown Boulevard to facilitate a better connection between the Hill District and Downtown.