New single-family dwellings are expected to be built in Arlington within the next couple years, according to Kevin Hanley, manager of real estate and housing programs for the South Side Local Development Company.
Four houses are targeted for erection at the corner of Arlington Ave. and Fitler Street. Several previous structures, including a duplex, have been torn down at the site in recent years.
The homes are designed to be single-family, three-bedroom dwellings. Three of the houses will have detached garages.
There are several zoning issues that need to be addressed with the city planning commission and zoning hearing board and a "contractor issue" needs to be revisited, but the SSLDC officials are confident they can get this accomplished within the next four years.
Mr. Hanley said he has set some aggressive goals to get the homes, expected to cost around $140,000 each, built as soon as possible. However, he noted there is no set "timeline" at this point.
"A lot of the groundwork has been done," he said.
The proposed site is situated on very hilly terrain, so there may be challenges in getting the ground stabilized to sufficiently support the proposed construction. Hilly terrain and coal mine issues below ground were the major reasons why the SSLDC decided not to pursue building homes a block away at the corner of Dengler Street and Arlington.
Arlington residents in the audience raised questions about the new homes, wanting to make sure this would not turn into Section 8 housing. The residents also want to make sure the new houses would aesthetically fit with the neighborhood.
One man cited an example of eight condos being built on the nearby South Side Slopes that did not blend in well. He also cited major parking issues that have resulted from the dwellings being built. He said the residents around that particular building site did not have a say-so in the matter before they were built and that the project was basically "jammed down their throats."
The man wanted to make sure the residents of the neighborhood had some input into the final plans for the four planned houses before construction takes place.
The SSLDC officials were also asked about their success rate in organizing new housing plans. Mr. Hanley admitted his organization has had mixed results thus far.
Eight new houses built on Bausman Street in Knoxville several years ago sold very quickly and have been a big plus for that neighborhood. In fact, the Knoxville houses, built for the physically challenged, have won several national design awards, according to Mr. Belloli.
However, sales for eight new houses on Beltzhoover Ave. handled by the SSLDC continue to go slow.
If the Arlington houses are sold quickly, more houses may be built in the neighborhood shortly after that through the SSLDC.
While a number of residents seemed skeptical about the proposed housing plan, council board member Michelle Balcer, a former Arlington Civic Council president, noted that new housing stock in the neighborhood is critical to its vitality.
"Many people do not go to [civic council and block watch meetings on a regular basis]," she said. "They only attend these meetings when they think there is something negative going to impact them so they want to [complain].
"We need to stay positive about Arlington talk it up. People from out of state constantly come here and say, ‘Boy, this place is great!' We need to see this place the way people who I know from Seattle see us. The people of Seattle love Pittsburgh [including Arlington]. You can have so much fun here and there's so much value here. We can do this and get this housing built. We need to get new houses in here or this neighborhood will start to die."
Mr. Belloli concurred that it takes local residents to generate good publicity about the strengths of their neighborhood.
"That's part and parcel with what goes on with us and a neighborhood," Mr. Belloli said. "We need the neighborhood to be enthused about living here. We look to you to build a positive outlook."
Mr. Hanley said he believes the residents will be "very satisfied" with the way the four houses will fit into the neighborhood.