By SUSAN JONES
Pitt is planning to purchase Bridgeside Point II, a building it has long occupied in the Pittsburgh Technology Center development along the Parkway East, at a cost of $81 million.
The Board of Trustees Property & Facilities committee agreed to the purchase, barring any complications found during due diligence, at its May 23 meeting.
The building has more than 161,000 square feet of office and laboratory space, which has been occupied by the School of Medicine since 2009. It is currently held by BPA II Limited.
“The property is strategically located and aligned with the University’s real estate strategy,” David DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operations, told the committee members.
At the Pittsburgh Technology Center, the University also owns the Center for Biotechnology and Bioengineering building and leases space in Bridgeside Point I (100 Technology Drive), the Riviera Building (350 Technology Drive) and 700 Technology Drive.
City Councilman Bruce Krauss hosted a public hearing on May 25 about the zoning changed requested for the Oakland Crossings project, which brought out several people in opposition and support of the Walnut Capital plan to remake parts of South Oakland.
A compromise plan negotiated between Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s office and Walnut Capital will include development of new apartment buildings on Halket Street, along with projects at the Quality Inn site owned by Pitt and the Isaly’s site on the Boulevard of the Allies. In all, the project would include about 400 apartments, as well as a grocery store at the former hotel site.
Elena Zaitsoff, vice president of the Oakcliffe Community Organization and other long-time residents of Oakland spoke out against the planned redevelopment. One of their major complaints centered around the height limits of the proposed new buildings, which range from 120 to 185 feet.
“What Walnut Capital can build if this zoning legislation is passed is immensely out of scale with the adjacent areas,” Zaitsoff said.
Andrea Boykowycz, an Oakland resident and assistant director of the Oakland Planning and Development Corp., thanked the mayor for his work in reaching a compromise, but said the publicly subsidized affordable housing part of the agreement was “some pretty weak tea.”
She also echoed the complaints of others that the long-awaited Oakland Plan addresses many of the issues that this zoning legislation deals with. The Oakland Plan is a community-driven, 10-year roadmap for developing the neighborhood. The plan came before the city Planning Commission last week, but the public hearing was delayed until June 14 to allow the Department of City Planning to sort through all the public comments it has received.
“There is no longer any reason at all to pass this boutique legislation for the exclusive benefit of a single private developer,” Boykowycz said. “I urge you to set this bill aside until the proposed zoning in the Oakland Plan is reviewed and passed.”
Speaking in support of the zoning change was Pitt’s David DeJong. “This is a critical site. It’s the gateway to a proud historic and vibrant Oakland neighborhood,” he said. “It’s also the primary entry point for Pennsylvania’s third largest economic center, as well as Pittsburgh’s innovation district. We believe this proposal enables a thriving community, featuring a diversity of housing options, affordability, family-serving amenities, and other long-needed improvements. Importantly, we believe the proposal reflects extensive community input and is consistent with the community goals expressed within the draft Oakland Plan.”
He said the Oakland Crossing proposal would allow Pitt to redevelop the Quality Inn site on the Boulevard of the Allies into non-student housing and a grocery store — a long-sought amenity for the neighborhood.
Krauss read a letter in support of the project from Georgia Petropoulos, CEO of the Oakland Business and Improvement District, that in part said: “Oakland is long overdue for zoning that finally reflects our unique context as a local, national and global-serving downtown center of Pittsburgh.”
3500 Forbes project
A multi-story student apartment building along Forbes Avenue, at the former Marathon Gas station site, is starting to take shape.
In March 2021, developer CA Ventures reached an agreement with the nonprofit Family House, which owns an adjacent property on McKee Place, to reduce the height of a section that juts out at the back of the building by two stories, and in principle will allow Family House to use excess parking spaces in a proposed parking garage and to share the use of a pedestrian passageway between the two sites.
New rec center
Pitt began foundational work, including soil boring tests, this week at the site for the new Wellness and Recreation Center on O'Hara Street, according to DeJong. Additional construction activities will begin next week. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held in the fall semester to formally celebrate the building’s start.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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