40 New Homes Mark the Start of Larimer

Larimer had not seen new housing in 50 years. Now it has 40 fresh units on four streets in the heart of the neighborhood.

A ribbon-cutting Friday marked the start of investment in a neighborhood that had lain fallow for decades. Like so many city neighborhoods, Larimer lost most of its population through the 1960s and ’70s, and many homes, left to decay, were razed. By the ’90s, crime was the only news out of Larimer, which had more vacant land than it did buildings.

A few solid advocates kept the pilot light on. Multiple speakers Friday lauded its residents and advocates for being the real catalysts in the neighborhood’s current transformation.

“The Larimer Consensus Group is one of the hardest-working volunteer community groups I have ever worked with,” said Jennifer DiNardo, project manager with KBK Enterprises.

The consensus group formed around a vision plan in 2008, revising an old one and building from that a new one in 2010. It built teams to help attract homes, green infrastructure and community development.

The 40 units — on Larimer, Ashley, Meadow and Carver — are all energy efficient and affordable to people with subsidized vouchers. Four units are accessible to people with disabilities.

The units are expected to be fully occupied by the end of this month, Ms. DiNardo said.

KBK Enterprises had construction underway when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a plan for 350 mixed-income units a $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant last July. Tom Cummings, director of housing for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said KBK’s $21 million project may have helped get it.

PNC Bank bought tax credits to finance the 40 new units. The URA procured $1 million in federal gap funding. About 40 percent of the work went to minority and women-owned businesses, and 26 residents were hired on construction sites, said Jane Miller, HUD’s Pittsburgh field office director.

Keith B. Key, president and CEO of KBK Enterprises, said he was shocked that 740 people applied for a unit within two weeks.
“With that much demand to be in Larimer,” he said, “you have to build more in Larimer.”

The three-year conversation that led to this point was often testy, as residents insisted on their green vision and mixed-income units. KBK complied by including stormwater infrastructure around its buildings.

The site, called Larimer Pointe, has nine infiltration trenches to catch and release stormwater into the ground. A row of bioswales along Meadow Street will absorb water from the street via curb cuts.

“We always wanted to see Larimer as a unique, green, sustainable, diverse community,” said Carolyn Peeks, chairwoman of the consensus group and its green team. “We are looking for local artists, for co-housing, for passive housing, mixed income, park space development and urban agriculture, and we look forward to making history as we move toward our goals.”