South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Winter Park Villas have developer and residents disagreeing

 

Plans call for 20 new homes on Hackstown, Gregory and Magdelena streets in the South Side Slopes. Neighbors are concerned the current infrastructure will not be able to support the construction of the homes.

The latest and final revision of the Winter Park Villas by Cipriani Studios is set to decrease the number of single-family homes from 27 to 20 and include three new street extensions to be built off of the streets surrounding the lot.

The new site plan separates the 20 homes across the three new street extensions: 10 homes would be built on Hackstown Street, while six are planned for Magdalena Street and four for Gregory Street.

According to architect Justin Cipriani, community feedback played a role in the latest site plan, which leaves all three streets unconnected. Gregory Street will contain a dead end, while Magdalena Street and Hackstown Street will end with a 40 foot turnaround.

"A couple of the big things the neighbors didn't want is a large impact on any one street," Mr. Cipriani said. "They didn't want connected streets, and so our final revision is just a small extension off each of the three streets".

A lack of confidence in the infrastructure surrounding the site still remains a concern for South Side Slopes residents. While some said the design is an improvement, there are still concerns about the area's ability to support development and traffic congestion.

Tom Moul, who lives on Hackstown Street, said because of the narrow width of his street, he has safety concerns about the ability for traffic to get in and out of the area during construction.

"You literally cannot get two cars at the same time on that street," Mr. Moul said. "So trying to imagine heavy construction vehicles in and out of there in addition to the daily flow of traffic, which isn't much. I can't possibly imagine how that's not going to be a significant problem."

South Side Slopes resident John Schaefer said he has the same concerns for Magdalena Street and a high traffic volume cannot be supported there either.

"The infrastructure just cannot support it," Mr. Schaefer said. "If you've ever driven down Hackstown Street or my street, Magdalena, they are tiny single lane streets that snow plows and garbage trucks barely fit down."

Mr. Schaefer also stressed the community as a whole is not against developers working in the community, but it has to be done the right way.

"It's not that anyone in that community is against progressive development," Mr. Schaefer said. "It's not development. It's proper development. It's proper scale.

According to Mr. Cipriani, the community has expressed several concerns, and as a result, his firm has done eight iterations of the site plan to ensure the design is not only compliant, but also to address some of the resident's issues. While the current design is far from the original concept, he said it works the best from all points of view and the design won't change again drastically.

"You want to have [the neighbors] aware of what you're doing," Mr. Cipriani said. "If they can give you some input or some feedback on what might make it a little bit better in their eyes, then we want to take those ideas and formulate them in our project."

Cipriani Studios has also met with city officials to discuss the surrounding infrastructure and to seek the help of the Department of Public Works in order to ensure that construction is done responsibly.

"At some point, the city has to take care of its own infrastructure," Mr. Cipriani said.

Mr. Moul said city representatives have attended meetings in the past, but he doesn't believe the city has the ability to widen Hackstown Street due to the close proximity of the houses on the street.

"That's not really possible if you take a look at where the houses are on either side of the street," Mr. Moul said. "The city is not just going to do that of their own volition from my perspective. Not only that, there's nothing the city can really do."

The next step in the process is a steep slope overlay public hearing that will be held on the first floor of the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross Street on Tuesday, April 21 at 2 p.m.

Last summer, a group of neighbors pitched in to hire attorney Gavin Robb to represent the residents and attend the zoning hearings. Community members also said they plan on voicing their concerns at the hearing if they have the opportunity.

"We felt like we weren't getting any reasonable answers," Mr. Moul said. "We felt we had some legal basis for opposing this project."

According to Mr. Cipriani, the current design is compliant and his firm is not asking for any variances, so there is little ground to object to.

"We're on the right side of the eight ball in that we're not asking for any exceptions, any variances, or any nuances in the code," Mr. Cipriani said. "It's a compliant scheme."

The timeframe for development is contingent on the approval process, but Cipriani Studios plans to break ground later this fall or next spring. The first four houses on Gregory Street would be built and pre-sold first in order to gain a better understanding of the market.

 

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