URA Board to Vote on Advancing Six Redevelopment Projects on Centre Avenue in Hill District

PITTSBURGH, PA (February 10, 2020) The board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is expected to vote to advance six of the development teams who responded to the Centre Avenue Request for Qualifications to exclusive negotiations. 

Exclusive negotiations are the first of three board actions before selling property in the URA’s Disposition Process. During the period, developers work to further their concept, explore financing options, perform necessary site diligence, advance their architectural drawings, and meet with the community. At the end of the exclusive negotiations period, developers are expected to submit a detailed proposal for consideration by the URA.

The six development teams being considered include:

  • Amani Christian CDC is seeking to purchase the former African Queens building and adjacent lots and redevelop the site into ground floor commercial space with upper floor affordable rental units.
  • MOKA Art Gallery is proposing to purchase the vacant lot behind the art gallery and transform it into a green space for community music and art enjoyment.
  • Salon XO and Bridging the Gap Development are looking to purchase and redevelop property in two phases: Phase 1 includes the purchase and rehabilitation of an existing structure into a new upscale salon with a spa and wellness center on the first floor and affordable apartments above. Phase 2 includes a new construction mixed-use development. Salon XO was established in 2014 and is currently renting space in the neighborhood.
  • Studio Volcy, LLC is proposing Rhythm Square, which includes the rehabilitation of the former Contractors Department Store building, located at 2225 Centre Avenue, and the Center Builders Supply Building, located at 2237 Centre Avenue, as well as the vacant land in between.  The mixed-use development will include gallery space, micro-restaurants, live-work space, and affordable housing units.
  • The Sankofa Group, Inc. plans to develop the vacant land to the east of the Thelma Lovette YMCA in two phases: Sankofa Square, a three-story commercial structure and parking lot and Sankofa Estates: an 8-12 unit mixed-income, multi-family development.
  • Thomas Boyd is seeking to purchase and redevelop the former Hamm’s Barbershop building and adjacent lots located at the corner of Centre Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street. Mr. Boyd has operated Big Tom’s Barbershop in the Hill District for 14 years and has been renting in his current location all this time. Mr. Boyd proposes to rehabilitate the first floor and relocate his existing business to that building. The upper two floors are tentatively scheduled to be renovated as two, 2-bedroom apartments that would be marketed as affordable. The adjacent lots would be used for outdoor deck/lounge space that would be utilized by the community at times and at other times be utilized by neighborhood home-based businesses for pop-up sales and demonstrations.

The six proposals represent a total of 55 parcels; 54 are URA-owned and one is City-owned. 

Prior to the release of the RFQ, the Equitable Empowerment Fund (EEF) was created. The EEF is a new tool designed to provide funding for technical assistance through a local nonprofit partner, Neighborhood Allies. With EEF, respondents could receive assistance with RFQ language/packet development, budget and proforma development, and feasibility analysis to ensure that the vision for the parcel is feasible and fits within the community plan. The creation of this tool helped lower barriers and encouraged small businesses, local businesses, and small developers to respond and participate. 

"When the URA announced the plan to begin working with the neighborhood to redevelop the Centre Avenue corridor back in March 2018, we heard from a host of community stakeholders and community partners that our process needed to be modified to ensure existing business owners, non-profits, and Hill District cultural institutions could participate and ensure community ownership,” said Diamonte Walker, Deputy Executive Director of the URA.

“It became abundantly clear that we needed to take a different approach, which resulted in a modified request for proposals. As a result, I am thrilled that of the eleven proposals received, all development teams were either minority or woman owned and/or a Hill District non-profit or cultural institution. There is considerable work to be done, but we look forward to supporting these fantastic development teams bring the vision of a revitalized corridor to fruition.”  

The URA issued an RFQ in July 2019 seeking multiple developers to participate in the revitalization of various publicly owned, scattered sites along the Centre Avenue Corridor in the Middle Hill neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh.  Following the October 22, 2019 deadline, the URA received 11 responses. More information on the Centre Avenue RFQ can be found here. The URA plans to release a second round of the RFQ in March for the remaining parcels.

The URA Board of Directors meets at 2 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, 2020, in the Lower Level Conference Room at the URA offices located at 412 Boulevard of the Allies.

Gigi Saladna
Senior Communications Manager
Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh