Buying Here: Hill District


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The view of the Downtown skyline is familiar, but not the angle. Where is the rooftop deck that developer DeWayne Ketchum is standing on? The Hill District? Really?

Mr. Ketchum grew up on Centre Avenue in the Lower Hill, went to Philadelphia for college, came home to get an MBA at the University of Pittsburgh and returned to Philly for a 31-year career in distribution systems and capital projects for Sunoco.

Now he and his wife Cheryl are back here to stay and hoping the spectacular views will draw others to their new three-unit River View Ridge Condominiums at 1825 Arcena St. (MLS No. 977737) Unit No. 3 is nearly finished and will be open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 16. It's priced at $340,000 and listed with Christian Ivory of Keller Williams Realty (412-853-2020 or www.facebook.com/#!/riverviewridgecondos).

River View Ridge (http://riverviewridgecondos.com), which is five stories from the garage to the deck, arose on the site of a century-old, side-by-side triplex. Mr. Ketchum, who has built 10 single-family homes or townhouses in and around Philadelphia, happened upon the site five years ago while visiting family.

He was driving up Bedford Avenue when he noticed a new ranch-style house on Ledlie Street. Turning left for a closer look, he was astounded by the area's panoramic views of the Strip District, North Side and Downtown. The view was even better from the top of an excavator during demolition of the triplex. He and his wife, also a Hill District native, ended up buying several nearby lots, but this one is the jewel, he said. Mr. Ketchum realizes some local people will be skeptical about luxury condos in the Lower Hill.


(Click image for larger version)

"How many people would view this hillside site as an opportunity?" he said, smiling.

But he sees signs that this neighborhood is on the cusp of a development boom, noting progress on redevelopment of the nearby Civic Arena site.

His company, Ketchum Property Development, is also the general contractor and partnered with architect Anthony Palimore of Philadelphia and KRV Engineers of Duquesne. Since construction began in the spring of 2011, there have been a few hiccups. Public water lines had to be rerouted and improved and a transformer added to power the elevators.

On a visit this week, the earth was raw from work on the sewer lines and the stairs were still bare wood. But unit 3 appeared to be ready for its first tenant. Its 1,430 square feet of space includes two bedrooms, two full baths, 3/4-inch solid hardwood Chelsea Plank flooring throughout, a Trex-floored balcony facing the Strip District and lots of low-e Pella windows to show off the city. The kitchen has cherry Kabinart cabinetry, Ivory Gold granite counter tops and stainless-steel Jenn-Air appliances including a gas cooktop, wall oven/microwave combination, French door refrigerator and dishwasher. The backsplash is ceramic tile with glass-tile accents. A utility room has an instantaneous water heater and hookups for stacking washer and dryer.

Buyers of the other two units will be able to choose their own finishes and materials from the developer's website. Owners of all units will have access to the rooftop deck and to an outdoor entertainment area and garden to be built next to the building. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has been working on Cliffside Park on nearby Cliff Street.

Mr. Ivory, who lived off Bedford Avenue as a child before moving to Plum, is excited to be marketing new condos in his old neighborhood.

"We compare it to other townhouses where you can walk Downtown," he said. "But we have the view!"

He noted that buyers also qualify for three-year Allegheny County tax abatements worth up to $7,660 per year.

Mr. Ketchum, a member of the Hill District Consensus Group, views local development as both an investor and a native son whose father owned a tailor shop that was razed to make way for Civic Arena construction. His shop moved to the Middle Hill and remained in business through 1970. The new YMCA now stands where his second store was.

"I know this area well," he said. "I know what it was and what it can be."

 

Hill District at a glance

Website: pittsburghpa.gov/district6/

Population: 1,202 (2010 census)

Size: .179 square miles

School district: Pittsburgh Public Schools (www.pps.k12.pa.us)

Enrollment: 24,849

Average 2013 SAT scores (University Preparatory 6-12 at Milliones): 366 Verbal, 373 Math, 340 Writing

Annual 2014 property taxes on a house assessed at $100,000: $2,134; City: $756 (7.56 mills); School: $965 (9.65 mills); Carnegie Library: $25 (.25 mills); County: $388* (4.73 mills)

Betcha didn’t know: The ‘80s TV show “Hill Street Blues” owes its name to the Hill District. Series writer Steve Bochco attended college at Carnegie Mellon) and based the show on the neighborhood. It also was the setting for nine of the plays in August Wilson’s 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle.”

• Includes the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion, which allows the owners of their primary residence to reduce the value of their assessment by $18,000.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette


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