South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Planning Forum hears about condos proposed for So. Side

Member groups give updates on their programs and projects


Last updated 6/21/2017 at 5:34pm

A proposal to convert the former St. Adalbert’s gymnasium into 15 for-sale condominiums was the sole presentation at the June 13 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum. 

 Developer Ivor Hill, of HHF 2.LLC, said the agreement with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh is contingent upon zoning approval. A variance is required for a change of use to become multi-family residential. Use as residential multi-family is not permitted in an R1A zoning district.

A Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing on the matter will be held at 10:10 a.m. on June 29 in the first floor hearing room of the civic building, 200 Ross St., Downtown.

The units would range in size from 1000-square-feet for a one-bedroom condo, to 1700-square-feet for a two-bedroom condo. There will be no studios. 

The price will be about $275 per square foot, and will include one parking space per unit. 

An elevator will be added as there will be a third floor. Each floor will have 10-foot ceilings. There will be 15 parking spaces and bike racks. 

Trash will be collected by a company on the inside on the 14th St. side.

Mr. Hill said the gym was built in 1957 and very solidly as reflective of such construction during the Cold War era.

An attendee said the outdoor space is the biggest issue.

Another attendee expressed concerns about having open space on the 15th St. side of the building for fear if it becomes common space, it will lead to gatherings, noise, litter, and more.

Mr. Hill said he is leaning toward making it into individual yards for units that face 15th St. 

An attendee suggested he check on a setback variance as it looks like encroachment in the photos he distributed.

Mr. Hill said if the multi-family residential variance is granted, the closing on the property would occur in Oct.-Nov., followed by the design/planning module. Construction would begin in 2018. 

The meeting began with the introduction of Alexandra Kozak, who will represent newcomer Duquesne University at the forum table as a non-voting member.

Next, there was a discussion on the Infrastructure and Maintenance Policies in the ninth update to the South Side Neighborhood Plan.

The expectations for organizations, agencies, and related entities include: developing a system for the enforcement of litter, graffiti, and improper trash storage; addressing the impact of aging infrastructure and housing stock; maintaining publicly owned property; working with the Dept. of Public Works on public staircase issues; and exploring opportunities to assist property owners in maintaining their homes.

Chair Tracy Myers said the committee wanted it to be a “living working document” to update on an ongoing basis as opposed to putting it on a shelf for two years. In it, community organizations listed priorities and what they are doing in relation to the priorities.

Representatives of the forum member organizations then provided brief updates on some of the activities their groups are engaged in regarding the aforementioned expectations. 

Betty Kripp, who represented the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA) that evening, said once the group decides on a route for its annual StepTrek, members work with the city to repair and paint the steps.

The SSSNA is also involved in acquiring grants, maintaining community gardens, bringing in goats to eat unwanted and invasive vegetation, and more in the 65-acre South Side Park.

The group also has a very active zoning group, she said, which gets involved in Zoning Board of Adjustment cases, etc.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the organization provides clean-up of East Carson St., side streets, parks, parklets, and more with volunteers, who are largely college students. Others are assigned the community service by the magisterial courts.

From January to May, 2017, there were 1,341 coordinated volunteer hours, with 887 hours for clean-up only. Last year, Jan.-Dec., there were 1,984 volunteer hours, with 946 hours for clean-up only.

If there are more volunteers, the Chamber cleans more: special event routes, residential streets, Tenth St. Bridge, McArdle Roadway, bike trails, City Theatre, and special problem areas.

The Chamber also works with the Keep PA Beautiful staff to secure free trash bags and plastic gloves for volunteers.

Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said the new resident-driven South Watch aims to improve the quality of life on the South Side by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation, and monitor the outcomes.

Houses with trash outside at all times receive a placard on their door about the problem, followed by a walk-by the next week to see if the problem has been corrected. 

Letters are sent to property owners about tenants who do not dispose of trash correctly, with photos. She said there has been success with property owners’ responses to those notices.

Ms. Rudiak also Graffiti Watch is an action group of the SSCC, and the organization is interested in doing more public arts projects.

In announcements, residents are encouraged to provide input on the absence of Bus Rapid Transportation (BRT) planned stops for 5th at Kirkpatrick/Birmingham Bridge or Forbes Ave. at Brady/Birmingham. Designs for the closest BRT station are one-half mile from the Birmingham Bridge.

Currently people walk across the Birmingham Bridge to catch busses to Oakland or downtown.

Residents can learn more, and voice their opinions, on the matter at a transit meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. on June 20 at the NeighborWorks office, 710 Fifth Ave., Suite 1000.

The next forum meeting will be a combined July-August meeting on Aug. 1.


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