Housing isn’t in latest plan for East Liberty’s former Penn Plaza site |

Housing isn’t in latest plan for East Liberty’s former Penn Plaza site

An architectural rendering of new buildings planned for the site of Penn Plaza Apartments along Penn Avenue in East Liberty.
An architectural rendering of new buildings planned for the site of Penn Plaza Apartments along Penn Avenue in East Liberty.

The owners of the demolished Penn Plaza apartments in East Liberty have pledged up to $2 million for low-income housing in Pittsburgh, but activists say it won’t help displaced residents.

Pennley Park South, a subsidiary of Downtown-based LG Realty Advisors, is set to brief Pittsburgh Planning Commission members Tuesday about plans for the nine-acre property along Penn Avenue.

The Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition is urging the commission to reject the plan because it does not include low-income housing on site.

“We’re just basically saying the community needs affordable housing,” said Crystal Jennings, 34, of Elliot, a coalition member. “That’s what were fighting for, affordable housing on that site, and we’re going to keep fighting because residents want to come back to East Liberty.”

Messages left with LG Realty and its attorney were not returned.

The owners previously announced plans for a $150 million mixed development that included a Whole Foods, a parking garage, offices and about 400 apartments.

A new plan filed with the city in February contains no provision for housing.

LG Realty has agreed to contribute 50 percent of increased tax revenue generated by the project into funds that would finance housing that’s affordable for low-wage earners and reconstruction of neighboring Enright Parklet. Under the agreement, at least $2 million would go toward affordable housing at scattered sites and $1 million to park reconstruction.

The remaining 50 percent would be used to upgrade and reconnect Eva and South St. Clair streets and other infrastructure and utility improvements.

According to the redevelopment plan, work on two buildings will progress in phases starting with the first building at Penn and South Euclid avenues.

The buildings could include a hotel, stores, offices, a possible grocery store and parking garages for about 925 vehicles.

Penn Plaza, built in 1968, was part of an urban renewal effort that resulted in the mass demolition of homes and businesses in East Liberty. About 228 people lived in Penn Plaza, a mix of market-rate and low-income apartments, in 2015 when LG Realty notified residents it intended to close the complex.

The Planning Commission in 2016 rejected the company’s redevelopment plans. Developers appealed the decision and Pittsburgh and four civic groups settled with the company in October.

Residents and community activists have complained the development displaced poor residents and further gentrifies East Liberty, the site of much high-end development in recent years. Rents in the neighborhood reach as high as $3,000 per month.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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