Apartment complex near Ross Park Mall wins approval

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Developers of a proposed apartment complex near Ross Park Mall in Ross have told commissioners the building would “raise the bar” on apartment development.

Commissioners July 7 unanimously approved a conditional use and a site plan for the eight-story apartment building being developed by Real Estate Development Associates, Cranberry.

“This project by far raises the bar on rental living in the North Hills. It is the most luxurious project that I have ever been a part of,” said developer Larry Dorsch. “This is something much needed in this marketplace,” adding that there haven’t been any new residential rentals in Ross for more than 30 years.

The building on McKnight East Drive will contain six floors of apartments with a parking garage on the first floor. The top floor will include two lounges, a fitness center and a rooftop patio, said architect Loren Wright.

There will be 149 one- and two-bedroom units. Each unit has a balcony, walk-in closet in the bedrooms, along with a washer and dryer.

Project engineer John Schleicher, of Gibson-Thomas Engineering, said the building would be constructed on five lots that will make 3.73 acres. The lots have been vacant for approximately 30 years, he said.

“We believe that this project is harmonious to the area,” he said. “It is a complementary use with the mall and office buildings.”

Mr. Schleicher did not say when construction for the apartment complex will start.

Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer asked if they could put in sidewalks to the mall for residents, employees and shoppers who take the bus. Mr. Schleicher said that Cheryl Drive is a private road owned by the mall, but Mr. Dorsch said they are working with the mall’‍s officials on a possible stairway to its parking lot.

One resident had spoken in favor of the project before commissioners voted. Harriet Valliant, a retired North Hills High School teacher, said she has wanted to move into a smaller residence, but has been unable to find anything suitable in Ross.

In other business:

Commissioners approved a resolution placing a small lot on Lincoln Avenue into the Allegheny County Vacant Property Program.

Christina Hayden, of Maple Street, said she wants to buy the lot, which is adjacent to her yard.

“I have been taking care of it for the last 16 years as it if was mine” she said. “I really would like to just complete my yard with this property.”

She said she and her husband removed two 30-gallon bags of used oil filters, lawn mowers, a lawn tractor and “numerous” building supplies from the lot, and replanted the area with grass and lilac bushes.

Mrs. Hayden said she preferred to just buy the lot from the owner, but could not find her.

“I tried to find the lady who owned it. I know a lot more about this lady than I do my own genealogy,” she said.

Resolutions placing two other properties into the county program were tabled.

During the work session that preceded the voting meeting, two representatives of the county program explained the program and answered commissioners’ questions. Ross opted into the program last year.

Maureen Quinn and Cassandra Collins said the program allows individuals to buy vacant and blighted properties up to 1 acre for reuse. A property is put into the program by the municipality, and interested parties can apply to purchase it.

After one person applies, the property is posted, while others can still apply. If that happens, the county requires the two applicants to work together.

That is a “flaw” in the program, said commissioner Dan DeMarco.

“It is a great program, but if you have two competing neighbors, two competing potential property owners who want to do something with the property, then the vacant property sits there and remains vacant. That doesn't address the problem of the vacant property,” he said. “Somebody in the county should be involved as a neutral party.”

Commissioners also introduced two ordinances, one establishing a traffic advisory board and another regulating when garbage and recycling can be placed at the curb and when they should be removed. Both ordinances will be up for vote at the July 21 meeting.

They also announced a public hearing on an ordinance that regulates digital signs will be held on Aug. 20.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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