Financing plan for housing in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill area moves forward

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A plan to have taxpayers help build high-end housing in Squirrel Hill is moving forward.

On Wednesday, Allegheny County Council's economic development committee voted to push ahead a tax-increment financing plan for the Summerset at Frick Park project, devoting a portion of neighborhood property taxes to the luxury development's final stage of construction. The plan will go before the full council for a vote on Tuesday.

It would divert $24 million in property taxes to fund the project, which would add 217 housing units to the development overlooking the Parkway East near the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

Under the plan, 75 percent of tax revenue from a portion of the existing neighborhood and 45 percent from new construction would go to improving public infrastructure, including building a bridge across Nine Mile Run and removing the remaining slag on the site.

It's a win for the developers, who have successfully transformed a former slag heap into a pricey neighborhood where homes can fetch $500,000.

But county Councilwoman Barbara Daly Danko, whose district includes the site, hopes the new homes won't create a glut of high-priced housing along that section of the Monongahela River.

Her question: Doesn't Squirrel Hill have enough expensive homes?

"It's a great thing for the city," said Ms. Danko, D-Regent Square. "But I wonder if they didn't do it here, would they do it in Homestead, or in Munhall?"

Project leaders have said they need taxpayer assistance because state grants have dried up, and the price tag for removing the mountain of slag still on the property is formidable.

Developers appeared before the Pittsburgh Public Schools board Wednesday night; they'll speak before Pittsburgh City Council on July 9.

Ms. Danko said members of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association are also concerned about plans for a new bridge over the creek leading to the development. With so much work done to rehabilitate that trail, they'd hate to see the creek harmed, she said.

"If they can do the bridge without significant environmental damage, it'll be win-win-win," she said.

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Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497.


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