“@#$%&!” slipped out of my mouth when I was several blocks away from the former Penn Plaza site and I saw a hulking behemoth of a building looming high above the surrounding neighborhood. In it’s current state, the new development appears to be as tall as the Daniel Burnham apartment building on Highland Ave opposite East Liberty Presbyterian Church, which is much taller than any other structure remaining in the neighborhood besides the church. While I had seen the early drawings of the proposed development when I worked at the City, I was bowled over by seeing the actual size and how it has no relation to the surrounding neighborhood.
This has promoted me to look back at the process of how this project got approval from the city. What I have found so far has only prompted more questions. When a developer proposes a project that is in compliance with the zoning code regulations, there is not much the city can do besides ask “pretty please.” I had assumed that was what the story was here, but so far I don’t see how this project was in compliance with the zoning requirements. I’ll continue digging through the past records to try and wrap my head around the zoning approval for this project. In the meantime, below are photos of the current building progress and some news articles about the development since my last post.
Penn Plaza in the News
In a November 23, 2020, article WESA explores what the Mayor’s Office really knew before the eviction notices. WESA also produced a podcast on Land & Power to explore what happened and how in this East Liberty site.
Former Penn Plaza Residents are being given an opportunity to return to the neighborhood in the new Mellon Orchard Development as reported by ELDI (December 15, 2020) and the Post-Gazette (February 17, 2021).
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