City secures former Veterans Administration site on Highland Drive for regional Public Safety facility
June 29, 2021
The City of Pittsburgh has finalized the acquisition – for free – of the former VA Highland Drive campus in Lincoln-Lemington, with plans to create a regional Public Safety training site and introduce stormwater management solutions to the flood-plagued Washington Boulevard corridor.
The moves will also allow the city to save millions of taxpayer dollars on leases of private properties used by the Department of Public Safety and to move key city-owned properties and parcels back onto tax rolls.
Placing the Public Safety facilities on Highland Drive would allow the city to move out of properties it owns on the Strip District riverfront and the Emergency Medical Services headquarters in Shadyside; opt out of leases for Police Headquarters and the Police Training Academy in Chateau and Allegheny West; and relocate Public Safety facilities on Washington Boulevard to make way for stormwater remediation efforts in the corridor.
Renovations at the VA buildings will be net zero (meaning they have efficiencies making them produce as much energy as they consume), following city building requirements in 2019 legislation introduced by the Peduto Administration.
"This site provides us with a historic opportunity that we cannot let pass us by," Mayor William Peduto said. "We can advance sustainable green development in the city, provide a solution to decades of intractable flood mitigation challenges in the area, offer the best in life-saving training to personnel from around the region, and expand the city's tax base."
The Veterans Administration vacated the Highland Drive Medical Center property in 2013 and announced plans to dispose of it in 2017. The city submitted plans to the General Services Administration the following year to take it over, for free, the following year.
Federal government agencies approved its use by the city as a Public Safety complex and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on transferring the property early this year. The city plans to use it as a state-of-the-art Public Safety Training Academy; a Public Safety Department and Emergency Management headquarters; a home for police K-9 and mounted units; storage of emergency response and winter weather response vehicles and equipment; and other uses.
Long-term financing plans for the training center are listed in the city's 2021 Capital Budget.