Pittsburgh could acquire former VA hospital campus in Lincoln-Lemington
The federal government has approved Pittsburgh’s application to acquire a former Veterans Affairs hospital complex in Lincoln-Lemington for public safety training.
The city could take ownership as early as next year if the 168-acre property passes a historic review, officials said.
City Council on Tuesday introduced a resolution that would authorize an agreement with the VA allowing Pittsburgh to access the property and conduct studies of the buildings and grounds. Council is expected to vote on it in coming weeks.
Under the agreement, the federal government would continue to maintain utilities in 24 buildings on the site and Pittsburgh would be responsible for grass cutting and snow removal, according to Pittsburgh Budget Director Jennifer Presutti. The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System closed the complex on Highland Drive in 2013 and shifted medical services to the University Drive campus in Oakland and the H.J. Heinz facility in O’Hara.
“We’re hoping to have deed in hand early next year,” Presutti said. “It all depends on the historic review. We will have the property as long as everything plays out the way we need it to.”
She said the federal government would cede the title as a “public benefit conveyance” at no cost to Pittsburgh.
The U.S. General Services Administration is handling the property disposition on behalf of the VA. GSA spokesman Adam Rondeau confirmed the property would go to the city if it clears the review process.
“I can confirm that the (Department of Justice) and (Federal Emergency Management Agency) have approved the city of Pittsburgh’s application to acquire the property for emergency management services and law enforcement,” he said.
The VA, which referred questions to the GSA, previously said it hoped to dispose of the complex and use the money spent on maintenance there for other veterans services.
Federal officials classified Highland Drive as excess property in 2017 and the city officially applied for the site in January, according to Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto
Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in 2016 said they were considering a partnership to create a $30 million facility for training city and county police, firefighters and paramedics. The center could be open for training municipal officers, Peduto said. The mayor said some of the buildings could also be used to house homeless veterans and the city would consider moving other municipal operations to the site.
Peduto was traveling to San Francisco Tuesday for a week-long Global Climate Action Summit and could not be reached for comment. Fitzgerald said the county is still interested.
“We’re always looking to see if we can find efficiencies and better ways of doing things, and this is no exception, obviously cognizant of costs and all the other things,” he said. “We’ll take a look at it.”
Presutti said about 64 acres of the complex is suitable for building. The rest is hillside. The General Services Administration first had to offer the property to other federal agencies and then to state and local governments, Presutti said.
“Nobody raised their hand,” she said. “We were the only applicant.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter @bobbauder.