Homestead was basking in the promise of One Homestead, a major development by a.m. Rodriguez Associates, when fire struck — twice.
The first on Jan. 23 was a six-alarm fire that started at 239 East Eighth Ave. in the borough’s struggling historic business district. The fire quickly jumped to adjoining properties as firefighters from more than 20 fire companies battled a blaze that caused $2 million in damage, gutted four buildings and damaged one more. Nine residents were displaced and three businesses destroyed.
The second fire happened just blocks from the first, in an apartment building at 546-548 Dickson St. The attached twin structures housed nine families and damage was estimated then at $500,000.
In a recent interview, borough manager Ian McMeans said the Eighth Avenue properties have drawn developers’ interest.
“All of the owners are local and insured. Permits have been secured and the structures on Eighth Avenue are being demoed and debris hauled away,” he said. “At least four developers have called and two have submitted proposals to the owners.”
He stated that any deal is contingent upon the demolition and fire escrow as the plots must be cleared and secured. “It is a lot easier for property to change hands after the demolition occurs.”
The property on Dickson Street has a secured demolition and work permit, Mr. McMeans said. Edward Roberts, the building’s owner, said at the time that the building would be torn down as it was not feasible to repair.
Mr. McMeans is hopeful about these and other changes taking place in Homestead.
“We have a great location. We are on the city side of the Squirrel Hill tunnels with very affordable housing. In the early 1900s, when the mills were booming, they built this housing stock to last. It’s close to a walkable business district right on the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail and a number of regional and recreational assets.”
The bike trail is a great draw for many people. Homestead has bike racks and a bike corral provided by Sustainable Pittsburgh.
He also points to the Waterfront, which offers large retailers, specialty stores and entertainment, also within walking or biking distance.
“Studies show that the millennial generation wants more urban, walkable communities with an inner ring. Homestead has that,” Mr. McMeans said. “They also want major public transportation and the community is 15 minutes to Oakland.”
Apparently, this little secret is not so well-kept, because folks are moving in.
“There has been a lot of interest on Eighth Avenue. A couple of the business have rehabbed the apartments above the retail. They are fetching $1,200 a month for rent, with a waiting list,” he said.
Rosa Colucci can be reached at 412-263-1634 or firstname.lastname@example.org