Whether it's Oxford or Ralph Falbo, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has a message for developers -- give me housing and lots of it.
And that applies to the North Shore, too, where you will find lots of offices and bars and even a hotel, but not a single place to call home.
In meetings with developers, Mr. Peduto is making it clear that there is a new administration with a new agenda in town -- one that places a premium on housing and neighborhood business districts.
"Retail follows rooftop. That's what [the late mayor] Bob O'Connor used to say. We don't need to TIF retail centers. We don't need to put public dollars behind big box. They'll come. What we need to do is to build up the population that will shop there and then the retail would never need public subsidy," he said.
Mr. Peduto wants to bring 20,000 new residents into the city over the next 10 years. To do that, he will need more housing, and that is where the developers come in.
The mayor sees opportunities for more residential development on the South Side, particularly near SouthSide Works; the Strip District; and Homewood, a struggling neighborhood he is seeking to rebuild.
Oxford Development Co. is developing an eight-story, 173-unit apartment complex at Sidney and Hot Metal streets at SouthSide Works. It also has plans for a 229-unit apartment building on the Allegheny riverfront in the Strip.
In partnership with S&A Homes, Oxford also is building a 41-unit senior citizen apartment project in Homewood to be completed in the spring. A second phase featuring 41 apartments and townhouses is planned behind the senior complex.
During a meeting with Oxford officials earlier this week, the mayor said he encouraged them to do more housing in all three communities.
He noted that he sees a huge untapped market for housing around the SouthSide Works complex, even with several such projects, including Oxford's, now on the drawing board.
"There's a little bit of housing there but for the size and the scope of that development and for the amount of retail and everything else it has, it's lacking," he said. "The same way with the North Shore. These are areas that we should be having a thousand people living in."
The Strip, he believes, "can become a major residential neighborhood" within the next 10 years as well as the "next hot hub" for technology companies.
"We're going to need to create more space for technology firms and they want to be in clusters and the Strip District could become that. But at the same time it has this incredible option for housing as well," he said.
While Mr. Peduto praised the $11.5 million Homewood Senior Station project being done by Oxford and S&A Homes, he stressed that he did not want to see it end there.
"I don't want to see the development they did just become a stand-alone development. I want to see them continue and we'll partner with them to continue to redevelop Homewood," he said.
Oxford officials could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Falbo has his own development in the works on the South Side -- a $10 million, 56-unit apartment complex on South Water Street near the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Construction is expected to start this summer.
Another Falbo project, a 45-unit apartment complex with 7,500 square feet of retail space, in Lawrenceville near Doughboy Square should be finished in May.
After a meeting with Mr. Peduto this week, Mr. Falbo said he doesn't see any problem working with the new mayor.
"I think he's open. He likes to hear your ideas," he said. "We just want to know where the city and the county want to be so that we're not spinning our wheels."
So far, the development on the North Shore between Heinz Field and PNC Park has been office and entertainment-centric, with two office buildings completed and a third under construction in addition to the Stage AE concert venue and the Hyatt Place Hotel.
That has to change, said Mr. Peduto, a former board member of the Stadium Authority, which controls the land between the stadiums.
"What's needed on the North Shore is we need to start building out the community and we need to connect that to the neighborhoods of the North Side," he said. "The linchpin between the North Shore development and the North Side is people and creating residential there has to be the next step."
Barry Ford, president of development for Continental Real Estate Cos., the North Shore developer hired by the Steelers and Pirates, said that residential is a "good possibility" for the next phase of work.
"We're very interested in trying to put together a residential project for the North Shore. That is a priority for us and something we look forward to working with the stadium authority and the mayor and his staff on," he said.
"I really think the market in the city has changed since we started the project and residential has become much more popular and much more possible. I think the time may be right for looking at that kind of project on the North Shore."
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