URA to Acquire Hill District Grocery and Support New Park at Hospital Site in Brighton Heights

PITTSBURGH, PA (November 13, 2019) The board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority is poised tomorrow to acquire a vacant grocery store complex in the Hill District, and forward plans for a park at the former St. John’s Hospital site in Brighton Heights.  

The URA plans to acquire a vacant, 2.57 acre shopping center at 1850 Centre Avenue in the Hill, which includes a vacant 29,500 square foot grocery store and four vacant retail suites that total 6,910 square feet.   

No plans are yet set for the shopping center property, though the URA plans to acquire it for the long-term good of the Hill District community. The site enjoys good visibility and access from Centre Avenue, adequate parking, and service by Port Authority Transit (PAT) at several bus stops nearby.   

The URA plans to acquire Dollar Bank’s $1.6 million interest in the loan documents for the site, then close on the purchase of the property. Although outstanding County, City and Public School liens exist on the site, the URA plans to negotiate with the three taxing bodies to settle the obligations.  

In Brighton Heights, the URA plans to enter negotiations with the Allegheny Land Trust (ALT) to take over the former St. John’s Hospital site on McClure Avenue and create a passive and active greenspace at the property including significant green infrastructure elements. The green infrastructure for stormwater management is being funded by the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority, and the ALT will act as steward for the green infrastructure as well as the passive and active park planning.  

The approximately 3.6-acre site is presently a vacant, semi-wooded lot. The URA issued a Request for Proposals for housing development of the site in June 2014, but garnered no response, likely because the steeply sloped site is not economically feasible for residential development.   

The challenging topography requires significant site work and infrastructure and the neighborhood market cannot support higher sales prices that the budget requires. Through an engaged community process, the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation endorsed a permanent green plan put forth by the ALT.  

PWSA contracted with Ethos Collaborative to create a preliminary design for stormwater management as the foundation for a slightly cultivated green space. Ethos Collaborative is a collective of integrative designers, scientists, and educators based in Pittsburgh whose specialty is creating green infrastructure design and ecological engineering services. PWSA approved the stormwater infrastructure design, and ALT is applying for funding to allow Ethos to flesh out plans for the green space above. ALT’s goal is to integrate active and passive recreation to the site as an amenity for the Brighton Heights neighborhood. 

The regular November meeting of the URA board is tomorrow at 2 p.m. on the 13th floor of the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross Street Downtown.