New Homes In Hill District Touted As Catalyst For Redevelopment

Murder and drugs were commonplace as Ebony Lightsy was growing up in the Addison Terrace housing project, but she’s still sad to see her childhood home torn down.

The Pittsburgh Housing Authority is replacing Depression-era Addison in the Hill District with about 400 apartments and townhouses. Demolition began last year, and workers so far have erected about 20 townhouses around what had been Elmore Square.

Lightsy, 36, has watched the project evolve from across the street where she now lives in a home formerly owned by her grandparents.

“This is definitely a change,” said Lightsy as workers and heavy machinery banged and clanged. “It looks nice. I just hope they don’t put the hoodlums over here.”

The $186 million project is expected to bring about 1,000 new residents to the Hill and act as a catalyst for redevelopment of Centre Avenue. The first phase of construction is expected to end next summer. Work will then focus on nearby Bentley Drive, said Tisha Germany, City Executive and Assistant Vice President of Columbus, Ohio-based KBK Enterprises, the project developer.

Community leaders are attempting to rebuild the Hill with new housing, businesses, entertainment spots and social and cultural programs along Centre Avenue. The work includes redevelopment of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site for offices, stores and apartments.

“The idea is to make Centre Avenue a destination,” said Marimba Milliones, executive director of the Hill Community Development Corp. The organization is beginning what Milliones said was an “action plan” that should trigger new development.

A $50,000 grant from the Design Center, Downtown, is paying for a consultant to plan development along Centre from Kirkpatrick to Reed streets. Carnegie Mellon University has chosen Centre Avenue for a case study through its U Dream program. Recent graduates will come up with best uses for properties stretching from Soho Street to Herron Avenue. “When we finish this plan, we will have reached the tipping point,” Milliones said.

Robert Rubinstein, acting director of Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority, said development of the former Civic Arena site could be holding up things on Centre Avenue.

“I think in part that there might be questions in businesses’ minds about what happens on the former Civic Arena site and how does that relate and support activity on Centre Avenue,” he said.

Construction has been ongoing on the Hill for several years.

The new Oakhill community brought about 700 apartments and townhomes to the site of the former Allequippa Terrace housing project.

The neighborhood’s first grocery store in a generation, an $11.5 million Shop ‘n Save on Centre Avenue, opened last fall. Centre Avenue has a new YMCA and Carnegie Library.

Jeff Ross, owner of Ross Family Supermarkets, which includes the Shop ‘n Save, said the store hasn’t performed to expectations so far. He attributed that to an unusually frigid winter.

“We anticipated a little bit more early on,” he said. “We’re anticipating growth, especially with Addison Terrace.”

Trek Development group is planning 50 to 60 additional apartments on the site of the former Reed Roberts development on Reed Street. Ross said that would help the store.

By Bob Bauder

Published: Monday, June 9, 2014, 11:06 p.m.