South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

SSCC reviews plans for 251-unit apartment building, Esser's Park


Last updated 4/8/2021 at 8:10am

The March 25 virtual development activities meeting (DAM) of th e South Side Community Council (SSCC) featured presentations on proposals for a riverfront 251-unit residential apartment building, and for the Esser's Plaza renovation project.

SSCC President Barbara Rudiak began the meeting by stating the SSCC had held eight DAMs to date.

The SSCC became an RCO (Registered Community Organization) through the Dept. of City Planning in Jan., 2020. As such, the SSCC may provide community input on development activities and planning processes.

A DAM affords an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

Meetings must be held at least 30 days prior to the applicant presenting to Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Art Commission, or Historic Review Commission (HRC).

Any comments on a project presented at a DAM of the SSCC should be emailed to the SSCC at: Letters may also be sent to: 200 Ross St., 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The first presentation was for a proposed high-end, seven-story, 251-unit residential apartment building at 2613 S. Water St. in the South Side Flats. The nearly two-acre site adjacent to the South Side Marina is currently vacant.

The apartments would include a mix of studio and 1-2 bedroom apartments for rent. Five of the seven stories would be apartments while the other two stories would be parking, lobby, and more.

Its temporary name is SouthSide Works Riverfront Apartments.

"We think there will be a tremendous demand for this project," said Andrew Donchez, a principal at SomeraRoad, the new owner of SouthSide Works. 

He said the company is working on improvements to all of the public amenities at SouthSide Works, like the community garden, new stage, playground, and more.

Recently, SomeraRoad's proposal to convert South Side Works Cinema into 75,000-square-feet office space called the South Side Works Box Office was approved by the Planning Commission.

Construction has begun, with an expected completion date of later this year.

Travis Keidler, the project design lead, said the proposed apartment building's zoning designation is SP-5, with a use of multi-family residential apartments.

The length of the building is 475-feet along Water St. The building area is 349,919-square-feet. The first level is 56,106-square feet.

The building will have four elevators.

The interior parking will have a 0.75 to 1 parking ratio to units. The bike parking of 184 spaces exceeds the required number.

There will be internal recycling and trash. The rooftop equipment will be fully screened and not visible.

Bob Russ, of the local review committee (LRC), said the proposed closing of Water St. will make it more pedestrian-friendly, which he likes. 

The project includes improvements to the public spaces in front of the building as well as the adjacent promenade and connections to Riverfront Park and the Heritage Trail. Plaza and bike racks will be open to the public.

The building will include tenant amenities like a rooftop terrace with pool, fitness center, community lounge, and co-working space. 

To an attendee's complaint that it "sort of walls off the river," Mr. Keidler said there is lots of open space on either side of the building.

To a concern about glare from so much glass from seven stories, Mr. Keidler and Mr. Donchez said they do not see glare as a problem.

If approved, the plan is for ground to be broken at the end of 2021, with completion two years later.

The next step is a presentation before the Planning Commission. Besides emailing comments to the SSCC, or mailing letters to the Ross St. address listed earlier, testimony may be emailed to: .

The other presentation was for the proposed renovation project for Esser's Plaza, 1200 East Carson St.

Kitty Vagley said Engineers Without Borders, Pittsburgh Chapter, has worked five years on the project as volunteers.

The proposal includes site and infrastructure improvements, like green areas, paving, new lighting, ADA ramp, precast lawn bench, concrete sidewalk, electric receptacles, park benches, plantings, and more.

While there will not be a rain garden, there will be a garden, she said.

An artwork sign that states "Esser's Plaza" will be planned later.

A mural will be looked at as an after-project, said Mike Clark of the SSCC, which supports the project.

The park restoration project has received a $100,000 grant from the URA from the Neighborhood Initiatives Fund, and a grant of $25,000 from the Colcom Foundation.

To an attendee's question about the lawn grass, Ms. Vagley said it will be real. The seating bench is 18 inches high.

To a question of who will cut the raised grass area, she said the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) model of stewards maintain the gardens and grass.

Kathleen Petrillo, of the SSCC, said the plaza will fall under the SSCC's Green N'at, which works to create and revitalize green spaces in the community.

Its volunteers will be stewards handling the plaza, she said. Any necessary equipment will also be obtained.

To a question about the bike rental area, Mr. Clark said "it is intended to stay."

The proposal must go before the HRC and the Art Commission. Besides emailing comments to the SSCC, or mailing letters to the Ross St. address listed earlier, testimony may be emailed to the, or .

The next DAM of the SSCC is planned for April 22. No presentations are scheduled at this time.


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