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Pittsburgh Planning Commission to vote on final plans for Penn Plaza site

Bob Bauder
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The Pittsburgh Planning Commission has scheduled a hearing and vote for Tuesday on final plans for the controversial redevelopment of the former site of Penn Plaza Apartments in East Liberty.

Pennley Park South, a subsidiary of Downtown-based LG Realty Advisors, is seeking to build a $100 million retail and office complex on the site of the former buildings that provided a mix of market rate and low income apartments.

Demolition of the buildings in 2017 and Pennley Park’s redevelopment plans have become a flash point for activists who contend the project will compound gentrification in East Liberty. They’ve argued for the city to take the property through eminent domain and built affordable housing on the site.

Downtown attorney Jonathan Kamin, who represents Pennley Park, said the development would proceed in two phases and mirror a preliminary plan approved by the Planning Commission in 2018. The project would essentially consist of two 150-foot buildings with ground-floor retail and space on upper floors for offices. Each building would have its own parking garage.

It also reconfigures and improves Enright Parklet, which abuts the property.

“It’s the same plan that was approved for the preliminary land development plan,” Kamin said.

Pennley Park has been locked in a three-year battle with the city and activists and has twice appealed Planning Commission decisions in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

A court settlement stipulated that 70 percent of increased tax revenue after the project is completed would be split, with half going toward public infrastructure and the other half for affordable housing and improvements to a small park on site.

The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority has estimated that the first phase of construction would generate $2.65 million for affordable housing and improvements to Enright Parklet.

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 in 2015, when LG Realty notified residents it intended to close the complex.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.