East Liberty YMCA building being converted into condos

Part of goal to build 1,000 housing units in city neighborhood

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The YMCA building and four old dilapidated townhouses in East Liberty could get a new life as condominiums with the help of $1.1 million in funding, most of it from a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle and other officials will hold a news conference this morning to acknowledge the $885,000 loan awarded by the Landmarks Community Capital Corp. to help finance the projects. The city Urban Redevelopment Authority is supplying $250,000 toward the YMCA project.

The $885,000 loan is the first awarded by nonprofit Landmarks Community, which came into existence about three months ago, and is the largest loan ever made by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation to a community-based organization.

"It's a smart investment on our part, working with a great organization that's committed to making positive changes in the East Liberty core," said Dr. Howard B. Slaughter Jr., Landmarks Community chief executive officer.

East Liberty Development Inc. has teamed with Denver-based MEIZ Development Co. to convert the vacant YMCA building at 120 Whitfield St. into 30 to 35 market rate condominiums plus ground-level retail and community space.

The $7 million project is part of a town square concept built around the East Liberty Presbyterian Church and the Carnegie Library.

"This is the first market rate housing to happen in the core. We're really excited to save an old building and to breath new life into it," said Ernie Hogan, East Liberty Development deputy director.

With the help of the Landmarks Community loan, ELDI already has acquired the YMCA building for a little more than $600,000. It and MEIZ hope to begin the development either this fall or in spring 2009.

The condos, which would range in size from 700 square feet to 1,500 square feet, would start at $185,000. The YMCA building was built in 1908 and at one time was a major activity center for the neighborhood.

On Rippey Street, the historically significant Queen Anne-style houses date to 1892. They have fallen into disrepair in recent years.

ELDI already has started rehab work on the properties. It intends to convert the houses into eight market rate condos, each with 1,500 square feet and a sales price of about $149,000.

It hopes to start construction of the units this summer and have them available for sale next year. The rehab is expected to cost about $1.4 million, with help from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the URA as well as Landmarks Community.

"These are very wonderful historical homes that are going to be converted," Mr. Slaughter said.

Mr. Hogan said the project is part of a commitment to the community to build 1,000 units of housing in the neighborhood. To date, 427 units have been completed.

"This is just continuing on that promise," he said.


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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