South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

UPMC looks to rezone South Side hospital properties

A change from EMI to Urban Industrial will be sought

 

UPMC will seek a change from the current Education Medical Institutional (EMI) zoning district to Urban Industrial (UI) for the former South Side Hospital properties in South Side.

A presentation on a proposed rezoning application for the South Side UPMC hospital property and associated parcels kicked off the June 11 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

Benjamin Kelley, director of planning and development, Oxford Development Company, said rezoning is being sought for the hospital building, parking lot across the street, and the Roesch-Taylor medical building.

The reason is the current Education Medical Institutional (EMI) zoning district no longer applies.

Mr. Kelley said as medical uses have gone away it is difficult for the city to match it to the existing zone.

The hospital closed in 2009. A year ago, various services were relocated from the UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center, such as surgery to UPMC Montefiore, ophthalmology to UPMC Mercy, and more. The goal is to move all clinical services out of the building.

Hundreds of information technology (IT) personnel and others will be moving into the building.

The Roesch-Taylor building is in need of much work, and is sparsely occupied; officials may look to reservice it.

Mr. Kelley said the plan is to rezone the properties to Urban Industrial (UI) to become uniform with the surroundings.

"This is a pretty standard thing," he said.

There will be a six-month application process with public hearings at the Planning Commission and city council. Mr. Kelley also said he would attend any South Side community meetings to answer questions.

The goal, he said, is for the hospital building to stay operational and in the community.

Following the presentation, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said he was happy "UPMC has been as cordial and engaged as they have been," and that 800 jobs had been saved.

"The zoning change is necessary to make all of this happen," he said.

Mr. Kraus and nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden then provided an update on the South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED), which is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and which was created in 2017. 

The revenue from the PED must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements.

The gross revenue year-to-date is $88,618.45. The gross revenue since April, 2017 is $466,844.08.

Mr. Kraus said two things stood out for him in the May PED report: that weekend revenue is consistent at about $4,000 per week, and that the total since this began is close to half a million dollars.

"It appears to be going all as planned," he said. There were no expenditures in May.

Mr. Kraus said the city's current East Carson St. streetscaping project from 10th to 25th streets does not appear to be having an impact on weekend visitors/parking. But he will watch what happens with the PennDOT work as it will be more of a disruption.

That work -- the $12 million East Carson St. safety improvement project -- will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St., and include resurfacing, upgrading intersections, ADA ramps and more.

He also reported that engineer Emily Jo Gaspich, P.E., of the city's Dept. of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) - Streets Division, has accepted another job, and is no longer with the city.

She was project manager of the East Carson St. streetscaping project. Mr. Kraus said he would bring the new project manager to the next forum meeting.

Regarding that project, Ms. Harnden said to email: domi.eastcarson@pittsburghpa.gov for any questions. Photos with addresses of the problem areas may also be emailed.

During the East Carson St. construction, Block by Block's two-person Clean Team retained with PED funds, is extending the service area in each direction to compensate for closed sidewalks.

There is a focus on eliminating weeds, especially in the construction area, while graffiti, posters, string, and stickers have been kept at a manageable level.

About 8,865 pounds of trash were removed from the cans and sidewalks during May.

The new hours are Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with both "ambassadors" overlapping. The two Clean Team workers are referred to as ambassadors as they frequently answer questions about directions and more for visitors.

On Fridays, one worker covers 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m., while the other works on Sundays, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Both are off on Saturdays.

"They really take pride in their work," forum member Barbara Rudiak said of the two ambassadors.

Mr. Kraus said the city is in the process of negotiating a new contract with Block by Block.

"We are very happy with the work Block by Block is doing," he said.

He also reported holiday lights will be PED funded, and it is time to begin thinking of what they will look like, where to buy from, and more, so they are ready to go in November.

Forum member Tracy Myers asked about condemned buildings. Mr. Kraus said city council has a list by council district, but the items need prioritized.

Ms. Myers said unstable buildings are referenced in the South Side Neighborhood Plan. She said two houses on Gregory St. have been condemned and are still standing.

Mr. Kraus said a demolition today costs the city in the low $40,000s per unit, mostly due to regulations, such as for asbestos.

Last year, the city budgeted $250,000 for demolitions. This year, $2 million has been delegated.

It then costs the city about $500,000 a year to mow the vacant lots that result from demolitions.

Next, Ms. Myers, chair of the Development Review Committee (DRC), said the DRC did not meet last month.

She reported Dan Gilman, the mayor's chief of staff, organized a meeting of those involved in the enforcement of laws and guidelines in an historic district. As most of East Carson St. is an historic district, it has its own rules and regulations.

It was driven by Mayor Peduto's hatred of illegal signs, she said.

At last month's forum meeting, Ms. Myers said the sandwich boards addressed by the East Carson St. business district strategy public esthetics task force is all about enforcement.

"A lot of business owners don't know what they're supposed to do," she said at that time.

Regarding the neighborhood plan, Tom Smith said the committee talked with Ms. Harnden about the plan and what role the South Side PED has in the plan.

"I think she gained a better understanding," he said.

In reports, Andrew Cahall, from the office of state Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., reported that a Health and Wellness Expo will be held Aug. 16-18. It will include a 5K race in the Hill District on Aug. 17. Volunteers and vendors are sought.

Ms. Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said groundbreaking for the TWG building at Sidney and Sarah streets will occur at 11 a.m. on June 26.

She also reported there will be a 90-minute active shooter response training session at 6 p.m. on June 18 at the Brashear Association on Sarah St.

The next SSCC general meeting will be on June 24. Bylaws will be reviewed as it is a criteria for becoming a Registered Community Organization (RCO), which gives formal status to community organizations that register with the City of Pittsburgh and provides benefits to those organizations.

The benefits include notification of public hearings, guaranteed meetings with developers/applicants, placement on official brochures, and more.

In Brashear Association news, the organization's "Christmas in July" toy drive will be held from 5-8 p.m. on July 25 at the Double Wide Grill, 2339 E. Carson St.

Attendees are urged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation.

The annual drive begins in the summer so as not to run short of toys in December.

Candice Gonzalez, of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, reported Duquesne University is putting together a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" video that will highlight South Side and be shown to freshmen at orientation and other groups.

"I think it's an exciting idea," Ms. Gonzalez said.

Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, announced the South Side Presbyterian Church, 1926 Sarah St., received classification as an historic structure from the city's Historic Review Commission (HRC).

The nomination packet, prepared by Preservation Pittsburgh in conjunction with the church, was approved unanimously by city council on May 28.

Incorporated in 1851, South Side Presbyterian Church is the oldest active church on the South Side. The building was constructed in 1869 when the neighborhood was the Borough of Birmingham. Additions followed in 1893, 1913, and 1920.

According to Preservation Pittsburgh, the church is significant "because of its embodiment of mid-nineteenth vernacular Gothic Revival design with late-nineteenth century Gothic Revival alterations; its association with themes of religion, ethnicity, and social history; and that it's a prominent visual feature of the South Side Flats in which it stands."

A community block party and open house was planned at the church for June 15.

In Chamber news, Ms. Gonzalez reported OpenStreetsPGH will be held on July 28. There were 36,000 participants for last year's activity.

In the free event, miles of city streets are closed to traffic from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. for joggers, bicyclists, walkers, and skaters to use the streets for fun in a car-free environment.

She also reported the 2019 South Side Summer Golf Classic, sponsored by the Chamber and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, will be held on July 29 at the South Hills Country Club in Whitehall. About 70 to 80 players are expected. For details, visit: http://www.southsidechamber.org/golf-outing-2019 .

Proceeds benefit the South Side Welcome Center and provide equipment and supplies for the Chamber Clean Team.

The next forum meeting will be a combined July-August meeting on July 30.

 

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