A proposed 58-unit residential development that one city councilman called the “single most important thing to happen in Homewood” in 60 to 70 years won the initial approval of the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board Thursday over the objections of some residents.Board members unanimously approved a year’s worth of exclusive negotiations with the city housing authority and Keith B. Key Enterprises, which has offices in Pittsburgh and in Columbus, Ohio, for the sale of more than two dozen parcels of land integral to the development of the plan.The housing authority, through its development affiliate Allies & Ross Management and Development Corp., is teaming up with developer KBK to build the two- to three-unit townhouses on Hamilton Avenue and Susquehanna and Kelly streets.Under the proposed plan, about one-third of the units would be market rate, one-third would be public housing, and one-third low income.The townhomes would serve as replacements for the former 734-unit Addison Terrace complex in the Hill District. The housing authority already has completed 342 replacement units in the Hill but ran out of land, thus the move into Homewood.City Councilman Ricky Burgess, who represents the East End neighborhood, said the plan constitutes the first attempt to do market rate development in Homewood in at least half a century. Some units, he said, could rent for as much as $1,200 a month.
Coupled with the new Animal Rescue League shelter on Hamilton Avenue, the residential plan could serve as a catalyst for other development in Homewood, which has seen its share of violence and decay in recent decades.
“My father died a few months ago. I promised my father I would help to rebuild Homewood. And I will guarantee him and guarantee you this will be the beginning of Homewood’s redevelopment,” Mr. Burgess said.
Not everyone shared his enthusiasm for the plan.
Cherylie Fuller, executive director of the Homewood Concerned Citizens Council, said some residents do not want units to be built on Hamilton Avenue. She said their voices have been lost in the discussion.
The council, she said, has talked to KBK about possible alternative locations for the housing. “As community residents, we should have a say in where these units go in Homewood,” she said.
She urged the URA board to delay the vote until there could be additional discussions.
Ms. Fuller won support from Karen Gilliam, a Homewood resident who lives in the 6900 block of Kelly Street. She said residents were not given a say in the proposed redevelopment.
“Ain’t nobody coming into the 6900 block and building anything unless we agree to it [even] if that means we’ve got to lay across the street to stop them from coming in,” she said.
Other residents were more receptive to the plan.
Lucille Prater-Holliday said there are generations of residents who know nothing good about the once beautiful neighborhood.
“How long are we going to sit back and let our children suffer? How long are we going to sit back and let our families suffer? Enough is enough. I’m sick of the decay. I’m sick of not seeing anything go on in Homewood,” she said.
In addressing the concerns, Kevin Acklin, URA board chairman and chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, said Thursday’s vote was just the first step in advancing the development. He said there would be many chances for more community input before a final vote is taken.
“We know this is an important investment in Homewood that has generated a lot of interest and we want to do the right thing,” he said.