43-loft building ready for tenants Uptown

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Almost two years after would-be investors skirted fifth-floor pigeons and spotted sky through a partially collapsed roof, they are dedicating the former Shanahan storage building in Uptown at 1 p.m. today as the Mackey Lofts, a 43-unit building with stunning views.

The Thomas R. Mackey Baking Co. was built between 1906 and 1910 at Forbes Avenue and Miltenberger Street. It later became the Famous Biscuit Co.

After its last use, by the Shanahan Moving & Storage Co., it was vacant for years before ACTION-Housing bought it in October 2011 to house Uptown workers and people with disabilities.

Eighteen of the apartments will be reserved for the deaf, blind and people with limited mobility. The tenants are eligible if they make less than 60 percent of the median income, which is $49,805 in Allegheny County. All apartments will rent for between $600 and $700, said Jennifer Dinardo, ACTION-Housing's director of real estate affiliates.

BNY Mellon purchased $11 million in low-income housing tax credits for the $12 million renovation.

"When we first went through, we really had to visualize what this could be because it was a rough building," said Rick Savido, president of the BNY Mellon Community Development Corp. "We've had a relationship with ACTION-Housing since the 1950s. When they told us what they wanted to do here, we said, 'OK, we have faith.' "

Yvonne McBride, a writer, lives on the fourth floor in one of the first seven units to be rented. She said it was imperative that she remain in the Hill, where she was born and raised, because she is working on a historical novel set there.

"I've been back five years and wanted to be able to walk and get a feel for the Hill again," she said. "I saw a flier about these apartments. I was living with a family member on Wylie and I wanted something updated.

"I'm impressed with the bamboo floors, the high ceilings and the modern systems in a place with a lot of character," she said. "I have a view of Forbes Avenue, the South Side, bridges and the river. The views are my muse."

Ms. DiNardo said ACTION-Housing wanted to provide housing for people who could walk to work and informed employers such as UPMC Mercy, Duquesne University and Consol Energy Center.

The Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services, both of which are in Uptown, provides support services for disabled residents.

The second-floor apartments have arched windows original to the building, and all the upper floors offer views of Downtown and the South Side Slopes. There are one- and two-story apartments, one and two bedrooms and a variety of floor plans.

The building meets the green-building standards of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the tax-credit allocator, but it will not be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, said architect Jeffrey Davis of Forty Eighty Architecture.

"Every unit has its own heat pump tied to 13 geothermal wells we've squeezed into the back of the building," 500 feet underground, he said. There wasn't room for another seven or eight wells the building would need to fulfill all the heating and cooling demands, he said.

There will be supplemental heating and cooling for approximately 25 percent of energy needs, he said.

ACTION-Housing will be conducting energy education for the tenants, Ms. DiNardo said.

"We have tried to use as many natural products as possible," from cork and bamboo flooring to cabinets with minimal formaldehyde, she said.

KBK Enterprises of Columbus, Ohio, and Mistick Construction of the North Side worked together as the Alliance Construction Group on the construction. The Urban Redevelopment Authority provided a $925,000 gap loan.

Mr. Davis said he looked at the building with a client in the early 1990s envisioning an apartment building, "but at the time, there just wasn't the demand," he said. "The building was in pretty bad shape. It had been neglected for so long."

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Diana Nelson Jones: djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.


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