(PITTSBURGH) April 16, 2012 Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today joined community stakeholders to celebrate the start of the highly anticipated redevelopment of East Liberty’s Highland and Wallace Buildings. The Mayor and developers Walnut Capital and Massaro Properties kicked off the historic renovation project with a community street party. Called “Walnut on Highland,” the $26 million project will create hundreds of jobs and includes 127 market-rate apartments, 15,000 square feet of prime retail space and a 180-car parking garage.
“The East Liberty neighborhood has experienced tremendous investment and we’re making sure that the job creation continues,” said Ravenstahl. “This historic rehabilitation marks an important milestone in the transformation of this burgeoning corridor. I’d like to thank the community, business owners and development team for their continued support of this project.”
The historic Highland Building sat vacant for more than 25 years, and the Wallace Building for five. The City acquired the Highland Building in 2004, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority acquired the Wallace Building in 2009. Over the years, various developers have attempted to redevelop the site, but were unsuccessful due to the costs of historic rehabilitation, as well as the need for more parking. Thanks to the Rendell administration, and now Corbett administration, a $4.5 million RACP grant will help fill the financing gap allowing for the construction of a parking garage. In addition, the site will receive $4 million in historic tax credits and the City’s URA provided a facade loan and secondary financing.
“Over the years, six developers have tried to redevelop these properties, but couldn’t get the job done,” Ravenstahl said. “The fact that this project is indeed happening is a testament to the hard work of the City’s URA, which collaborates with the state and private sector to advance job creation and economic development in our neighborhoods.”
“Thanks to the Mayor’s dedication to preservation and to retaining the significant fabric and context of our City neighborhoods, the buildings were still standing,” said Todd Reidbord, principal of Walnut Capital. “The Mayor believed in this project and his team worked hard to help us get this development off of the ground.”
The 100-percent historic redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the Highland and Wallace Building development site is an essential piece of the City’s and East Liberty Development Incorporated’s master plan. The plan includes housing and improved public infrastructure, as well as retail and commercial centers, and calls for $400 million in investment on 17 acres of land that span the East Liberty business district. When completed, these projects will create nearly 2,400 jobs, $17 million in local and state tax revenue each year, and 457,000 square feet of new goods, services and restaurants that will permanently re-establish East Liberty as a destination.
The URA sold the Highland Building, two adjacent lots and the Wallace building to Highland-Wallace Joint Venture for $1.875 million last January. The project is on a 12-month timeline with the first rental units scheduled to be available by spring of 2013.