Pittsburgh City Council approves $12 million for Larimer revival

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A plan for a $230 million comprehensive development in Larimer overcame a major obstacle Wednesday when Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to $12 million for the project that may be the key to unlocking millions more in federal funds.

The approval comes a week after a fiery debate in council chambers over the allocation, which will occur over a half-dozen years.

This week, four members of council -- President Darlene Harris, Councilman Daniel Lavelle, Councilman Bill Peduto and the bill's sponsor Councilman Ricky Burgess -- voted for the legislation. But two council members -- Natalia Rudiak and Bruce Kraus -- abstained because of reservations about the bill. (Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Councilman Corey O'Connor were out of the room when the vote was taken.)

The city Housing Authority is overseeing the project -- funded with both private and public sources -- that will include 300 units of subsidized and market-rate housing units, social services, green infrastructure, parks and improved streetscapes in a neighborhood that for years has struggled with crime and blight.

But much of the plan hinges on a highly competitive, $30 million grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhood Implementation program.

The city's contribution to the development project would signal cooperation to HUD and helps the Housing Authority score points, since the applications are judged on a point scale, bringing it closer to earning the grant.

But last week, council members expressed concern over plans to use the city's federal Community Development Block Grant funds to make up its portion of the project. The city was originally slated to contribute $16.5 million while the housing authority planned to contribute $12 million. This, too, concerned council members who felt the city should not be contributing more than the housing authority to an authority-led project.

Last week, as a result of the concerns raised in earlier meetings, the housing authority augmented its contribution to $16.5 million while the city dropped its contribution to $12 million.

Mr. Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he worked to recruit other potential funding sources for the project. He also worked with the housing authority to boost its allocation to $16.5 million so the city could invest less in the project.

But Ms. Rudiak said she's still concerned about the source of the money and that the city will cut out other projects in the pipeline. About $2.9 million in capital funds over six years would be a part of the city's contribution to the project, and she worries about the impact of the allocation on the city's dwindling capital budget.

"I just want to make sure that projects that we have in the pipeline are not going to be jeopardized," she said.

A final vote on the bill is slated for Monday.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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