In a rare return to city hall, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy this morning said Buncher Co.'s proposed Strip District project does not represent the kind of "world class" development that has marked Pittsburgh's transformation.
Mr. Murphy was invited to council's standing committee by Councilman Patrick Dowd, who has held up a tax-increment financing plan for the project because of various concerns, including what he calls a lack of public access to the Allegheny River.
Council also must decide whether to give Buncher a special zoning district for the 55-acre riverfront site, which would include a hotel, offices, retail and residential units.
Former mayor takes issue with Strip District project
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy stepped back into the spotlight today to take issue with a proposed Strip District project he says is not "world class." (Video by Andrew Rush; 12/5/2012)
Mr. Murphy, whose tenure from 1994 to 2006 included construction of riverfront trails and development on the North Shore and South Side, said Buncher's development includes too much surface parking and too little access to the river. Moreover, he said current plans indicate few amenities that would draw people to the river and capitalize on a riverfront that's one of the city's greatest resources.
"This is a good beginning, but it does not get to where Pittsburgh should be in terms of development," he said of Buncher's proposal.
Mr. Murphhy, who now works for Urban Land Institute, told reporters outside council chambers: "The quality of this development ought to be raised up, and I think council has an opportunity to do that."
Yarone Zober, chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's chief of staff, said the Buncher plan creates more riverfront access than likely ever existed on a site now partly used as parking lots. In addition to creating a larger public space at the river -- a crumbling trail already exits there -- Buncher would build roads that help visitors get to the site.
"We can always debate about whether that's enough, but the fact of the matter is, it's 55 acres of privately owned land," he said.
Council held legislation on the zoning district. Michael Kutzer, Buncher vice president, declined comment except to say he hopes "we'll resolve this thing" then.
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Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548. First Published December 5, 2012 4:30 PM