Gusts blew the dust around a Hill District plateau where once stood the oldest public housing in Pittsburgh, and where officials attending the project's groundbreaking on Monday plan to spend $160 million to replace isolated poverty with a mixed-income community.
Old-style public housing such as Addison Terrace, which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurated 73 years ago, "was hideous," said Howard Slaughter, chairman of the policy committee of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which is providing $28 million of financing for the project.
How about the stuff they'll build to replace it?
"I've already seen the plans, and it's going to be beautiful," said Delores Bailey, treasurer of the Addison Terrace Resident Council, who has lived there for 29 years. "When it's all done, I can't wait to move into my new place."
Addison Terrace was 734 units of dense, multilevel low-income housing, where crime got so bad that the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh installed 32 video cameras in 2005.
In four years, if all goes according to plan, Addison Terrace will be around 400 units -- half low-income, half market-rate -- sewn into the fabric of the redeveloping Hill District.
The plan is to have it "not just isolated, sitting here on the hilltop," said city Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents the neighborhood. A reconnected street grid will bring Addison Terrace to Centre Avenue, and roughly 140 of the 400 units will be scattered throughout other parts of the Hill District, filling in gaps and reaching almost to Bedford Dwellings, a public housing complex that has been partially modernized.
The theory is that better homes, streets and community will mean better neighbors.
"If you change how they live, you change how they view themselves, you change how they behave," said Councilman Ricky Burgess, who also chairs the authority's board.
He said residents will be working on the coming construction project.
Keith B. Key, a Columbus, Ohio-based developer whose firm will lead the reconstruction and manage the neighborhood, said minority contractors will be invited to a meeting about opportunities next month.
Mr. Key said the new homes, unlike the old ones, will have their own front doors and backyards, laundry machines and dishwashers. Environmentally friendly features will make it "the greenest community that's been done in this city, at least to this scale."
He hopes to be handing out new front door keys in late 2014. Of the roughly 500 families that inhabited the community before the start of demolition, a large number want to return once it is rebuilt, he said, and those who meet eligibility requirements will be accommodated.
Financing is in place for the first 186 units, but not for the rest. "We know the impact this is going to have, and will certainly entertain any application they bring to us," Mr. Slaughter said.
He acknowledged the $400,000-per-unit cost. "When you do these types of developments," he said, "there are all kinds of costs, and you have to look at the public good this brings to the community."
Rich Lord: email@example.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord. First Published April 22, 2013 5:15 PM