Next frontier: Pittsburgh's large HUD grant will transform Larimer

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It’s been a long time since Larimer was a thriving East End neighborhood, but there’s always been a core of advocates looking toward a more vibrant future.

That optimism finally was rewarded last week when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $30 million grant, a key building block for the development of 350 mixed-income housing units.

The Larimer plan, developed at community meetings in 2008 and 2009, had been the subject of applications for the federal Choice Neighborhoods program twice before. The third time was a charm, an attempt that was aided by city council’s pledge of $12 million, the city housing authority’s promise of $16.5 million and contributions from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the state Department of Transportation.

A $40 million share of the $100 million project is to come from developer McCormack Baron Salazar, which created the successful Crawford Square development in the Lower Hill District and which has won Choice Neighborhoods grants for other sites across the country.

The plans foresee 155 units of public housing, plus 105 market-rate units and 100 for individuals who receive housing tax credits. Beyond housing, it calls for preservation of green space, stabilization of the Negley Run watershed and commercial development.

Improvements for the blighted Larimer section are a logical extension of the transformation of East Liberty just to the west, which began in 2000 with a Home Depot store and spread to include new and popular retail as well as improvements in the housing market.

Like East Liberty, this evolution won’t happen overnight, but the HUD grant is a win for the city, one that should ignite a long-awaited revitalization of Larimer.

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