Beechview development in the works

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For seven years, Beechview residents have been waiting for the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to do something with the four properties it owns on Broadway Avenue.

Their patience finally may be paying off.

The URA is hoping to sell a three-story building at 1600 Broadway and a vacant lot next to it at 1602 Broadway to Avant Real Estate Services for redevelopment purposes. The URA board is expected to vote on a 90-day period of exclusive negotiations with Avant at its meeting Thursday.

Avant is proposing to use the street-level space in the 5,200-square-foot building at 1600 Broadway for commercial purposes, perhaps a restaurant, and the upper floors for apartments. The 3,000-square-foot lot next to it would be used for support parking and patio space.

The proposed agreement is the result of a request for proposals issued by the URA in March for the two properties and two others it owns across the street at 1601 and 1619 Broadway.

All four properties date back to the problems with developer Bernardo Katz, who bought buildings in Beechview he never developed, in part with $750,000 in URA loans he never repaid. Mr. Katz returned to his native Brazil in 2007, leaving the bulk of approximately 35 Beechview properties to banks. The URA foreclosed on 1600, 1601, 1602 and 1619 Broadway.

Robert Rubinstein, the URA's acting executive director, said Avant Real Estate was the only one to respond to the request for proposals issued in March.

He said the URA has worked with Avant's two principals -- Joshua Lavrinc and Mike Sell -- in the past and that both have been involved in real estate development and investment.

He added this is probably the third time the URA has tried to redevelop the properties.

"We're optimistic the conditions are right and that this is the right team to pull it off," he said.

Mr. Rubinstein said Avant also has expressed interest in the properties at 1601 and 1619 Broadway but first wants to get started at 1600 Broadway.

Avant already is talking to possible tenants and could be in a position to start the project by the end of the year if all goes well, Mr. Rubinstein said.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.

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