ShareThis Page
War Streets’ renovation plan sought |

War Streets’ renovation plan sought

Mike Seate
| Friday, July 12, 2002 12:00 a.m

When Julius Troiani bought a three-story apartment building about 10 years ago, the building was supposed to stay empty. The landlord emptied the 12 units by declining to renew the tenants’ leases and didn’t go looking for new ones.

Even so, Troiani, one of the city’s most successful private real estate developers, was not surprised to hear that the boarded-up property he owns at 1305 Arch St. in the Mexican War Streets section of the North Side had recently been opened up again by drug addicts looking for a place to get high.

“We go over there every so often and board it back up,” he said.

Troiani isn’t the only party tired of how things have worked out with his and other vacant buildings in this gradually recovering neighborhood. Residents claim Troiani is just another suburban slumlord, someone who buys property in the War Streets and refuses to renovate or sell because he dreams of scoring a huge profit by selling off the house someday.

For his part, Troiani defends his refusal to invest in the apartments, claiming the city, not he, is responsible for cleaning up the neighborhood. “The city’s problem is they don’t have a master plan for the War Streets. They need to clean up the lots and alleyways around here, and that way I can attract the right kind of tenants, which is not what you’re getting on the North Side right now,” he said.

Despite his less-than-neighborly approach to the War Streets, you’ve got to admire Troiani for being up-front. Finding an absentee landlord willing to talk about their vacant property is about as rare as having your security deposit returned in full. And as a lifelong Pittsburgher, Troiani insists he’s serious about urban renewal and inner-city investment.

During the late 1990s, the Troiani family, which once operated the Pilot House, a floating riverside restaurant, did transform a former produce warehouse on Smallman Street in the Strip District into nightclubs and restaurants. And the former Hill District resident, who owns the PaPa’s J’s restaurant chain, is undertaking the massive renovation of the old Jet Air manufacturing plant into an upscale apartment block in the Strip later this year.

But Mexican War Streets Society President Randy Buffington says without private investment from wealthy developers such as Troiani — who, by the way, lives in a $650,000 home in Mt. Lebanon — the area faces a Catch-22 where neither the city nor real estate speculators will make the first move.

“The real shame is how many people who live in this neighborhood would be willing to make that building into something really special. Blaming the city for not redoing your property is just irresponsible,” Buffington said.

Buffington and others complain Troiani has benefited previously from city investment and tax breaks through Urban Redevelopment Authority programs that have helped him develop several lucrative properties, from Downtown parking lots to several dozen rental units spread across the city.

There seems to be no end anywhere in sight to the stalemate, but with the URA possibly moving to close the Garden adult movie theater, located just two blocks from the disputed Arch Street building, Troiani hints that he may consider sprucing up his investment-property-turned-crackhouse “in a few years.”

As for the other similar properties in the area, well, the wait continues.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.