Developer moves forward with Aspinwall riverfront development
March 17, 2017 12:00 AM
Heath Turnquist, 43, of Aspinwall voices his opposition to a development adjacent to the town's new riverside park at Aspinwall's town council meeting at St. Scholastica Pastoral Center in February.
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A development group in Aspinwall announced an agreement to buy the Sunoco station at Freeport Road and Eastern Avenue as part of a plan to build a mixed-use development next to Aspinwall Riverfront Park.
The purchase agreement with VRAM LLC will be necessary to construct an Eastern Avenue entrance to the controversial Riverfront 47 development — a project to redevelop 47 acres fronting the Allegheny River at the former AZCON scrap yard.
The Riverfront 47 partners, led by the Mosites Co., proposed building 521 housing units and 257,000 square feet of commercial building space as part of the development, which straddles parts of Aspinwall, O’Hara and Sharpsburg.
The Riverfront 47 project won the approval last month of Aspinwall council, which agreed to support the diversion of $1.2 million in state and county grant funds for the project, which would link Freeport Road, Aspinwall Riverfront Park and the proposed mixed-use development adjoining the park. Approval was contingent on several requirements, including the purchase of the gas station.
“Together, working as a true community partnership, we will address issues like traffic and have already begun a conversation that could lead to improved access points to and from Route 28 as well as other changes that could potentially improve traffic flow throughout the community,” said Mark Minnerly, director of real estate for Mosites. “The Sunoco agreement is one of the items council requested in its recent resolution.”
The funds were initially intended for an intersection realignment at Freeport Road and Brilliant Avenue, until late last year, when developers proposed Riverfront 47. The issue has created a local dust-up, with dozens of residents posting yard signs opposing the project and packing council meetings.
Many of them belong to Priority Aspinwall, a group concerned about safety and traffic in the already congested Freeport Road corridor.
Spokesman Jan Beumer said the project is anything but a community partnership.
“There can be no partnership or togetherness without the capacity to listen and build trust,” he said. “In the face of major community opposition, you’d expect the developers would be eager to be forthcoming and transparent with information and highly responsive to concerns; sadly, they’ve demonstrated precisely the opposite. Instead of being informed of this ‘milestone’ from our ‘partners,’ the community and council members, who will approve or deny plans, learned the news from the media. With ‘partners’ like this, who needs community adversaries?”
Riverfront 47 still has to comply with other regulations set forth by council by the end of June, such as funding of traffic mitigation measures and tax revenue agreements with the other municipalities.
If those requirements are completed on time, council has agreed to back the diversion of funds to Riverfront 47 and intercede with the federal and state agencies behind the grants.
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1159 or on Twitter @janicecrompton.
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