By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Proposed Grandview development shared through online meeting


Last updated 5/10/2020 at 1:37pm

A new proposed development plan for the St. Mary of the Mount Academy was shared with community members over video conference last Wednesday as the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) held its first ever virtual community forum.

Thirty-seven community members logged in or dialed in to the virtual Go-To-Meeting conference, and MWCDC board president Perry Ninness was able to kick-off the meeting shortly after 6:30 p.m. without any significant technical issues.

"Welcome to the first virtual meeting for the MWCDC," Mr. Ninness said. "This is fantastic. We'd like to welcome our partners from the Grandview Apartments coming up."

Mr. Ninness encouraged participants to ask questions using the software's chat feature.

Following the brief opening, representatives from Way Architecture + Design Partners LLC, Red Swing Engineering, and Grandview Lofts presented new concepts for transforming the former St. Mary of the Mount Academy on Grandview Avenue, which closed in 2012, into a 34-unit apartment building with a rear parking lot and a rooftop deck.

According to Dustin Jones of Grandview Lofts, the private rear parking lot would contain 29 spaces and be accessible from Bingham Street. The lot would have a solid perimeter and a barrier arm gate to regulate access.

Residents on the call were quick to point out the development plan calls for 34 apartment units, while the parking lot plans only have 29 spaces. With street parking already being scarce, residents were concerned the development could lead to further congestion.

Mr. Jones said because there will be bicycle storage both inside and outside the property, the city ordinance will allow a reduction in the number of required parking spaces.

He also said the group can use the neighboring Sullivan Hall for overflow parking if needed; however, he doesn't anticipate any issues as the majority of the apartments are single-tenant studio apartments that cater to a younger demographic.

"Our demographic is the Uber generation," Mr. Jones said. "The ride sharing generation. That's what we're really promoting."

Of the 34 units, only three are expected to be double occupancy. All tenants will receive an assigned parking space, so the final tenant count is really what will determine whether overflow parking options at Sullivan Hall are pursued.

Mr. Jones said he has also received verbal permission from the Pittsburgh fire department to vacate the existing fire lane along Bingham Street, which would allow for 8 or 9 more public parking spaces.

However, a resident countered that many people already park in the fire lane on Bingham Street out of necessity, so formally transforming the firelane into parking would do little to ease the community's parking stress.

Other neighbors' questions pertained to the illustrations of a large roof deck. One resident asked if it would be for tenant use only, while another asked about the potential of there being large gatherings.

"If you wanted, you could have 100 people out there," Mr. Jones said. "Normal use would be 30, maybe 40 at the most. Fourth of July might be a time when you'd have a lot of people."

Mr. Jones said he doesn't believe noise will be an issue at all, as the roof deck will sit 50 to 55 feet above street level, and the largest part of it will be on the Grandview Avenue side of the building.

He also noted the city specifically asked for new sidewalk trees to be planted around the building's perimeter. The development plans include trees on Bingham Street and Grandview Avenue, but the group is still working to figure out how to add the trees to Amabell Street, which is much narrower due to a retaining wall that separates the sidewalk from a grassy slope.

Once stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted, the group is planning to meet with the city's arbor to determine the best way to add the trees to Amabell Street.

The site plan also includes a new entry vestibule on the Bingham Street side of the building, which will serve as the primary point of entry for tenants.

In addition to the roof deck and parking lot, the building is also set to include a first-floor gymnasium, business center, and a lounge area on each floor. Most units are between 450 and 490 square feet and are expected to rent for $800 to $1,200 per month.

The development team said the project is significantly behind schedule as they haven't been able to meet with the city's zoning department due to the state wide stay-at-home orders. However, they hope to receive their zoning permits and all proper documentation as soon as possible. After they do, they believe the entire project could be completed within 6-8 months.

The date of next month's MWCDC community forum will be announced via email and on the organization's Facebook page. The May meeting will also be conducted virtually, though it may be done with a different conference software.


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