Seven years after the initial eviction notices went to the low-income residents of the former Penn Plaza Apartments, the mixed-use redevelopment of the size nears completion of Phase 1.
The former Penn Plaza Apartments was a group of large of apartments buildings that served a low-income population. After years of neglecting these apartments, the owner gave 200 residents notice to vacate within 90 days in the summer of 2015. By then, the surrounding neighborhood of East Liberty was a hopping place to live with low vacancy rates and the average rent much higher than what these residents could afford. There was a large outcry at the time, which only got worse as the owner’s plans for the site were understood. The owner wanted to swap some land with the City and change the zoning district to build a large scale mixed-use development: 54,600 sq ft of retail and 246,090 sq ft of office with accessory parking (see the application materials starting on page 54 from the final Planning Commission review and approval). After months of negotiation with the City and the community, the land and the zone change were given to the development while the affordable housing crisis in Pittsburgh only got worse and the former residents were forced to uproot their lives.
The Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition has more information on what was promised and what happened as the residents were forced to find new housing.
Penn Plaza in the News
While the construction of Phase 1 of the new development appears to be nearing completion, I did not find any news items specifically about the site. News about affordable housing issues in Pittsburgh continue.
Public Source articles discuss:
- The challenges of enforcing healthy units with negligent owners (December 13, 2021)
- Resources for people looking for affordable housing (January 24, 2022)
- The disparities in tax bills for homeowners (April 4, 2022)
- Pittsburgh’s racial homeownership gap (April 18, 2022)
- The high cost of apartments in a neighborhood adjacent to the former Penn Plaza site (April 19, 2022)
- New affordable housing proposed for Downtown (May 17, 2022)
New affordable housing units opened and another project broke ground in October 2021 (Tribune Review).
A brief from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia on the homeownership gap in that city including findings applicable to Pittsburgh and other cities (East Liberty Development Inc, January 4, 2022).