Ravenstahl: Buncher should find alternative in Strip District

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Buncher Co. should try to find an alternative development plan for its Riverfront Landing project in the Strip District rather than pursuing partial demolition of the produce terminal, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Thursday.

Mr. Ravenstahl, a strong supporter of the project, said he supports the decision Tuesday by the planning commission to seek historic status for the terminal. Buncher has proposed razing 529 feet of the 1,533-foot terminal to provide access to the Allegheny River as part of its proposed $450 million housing and office project, and historic status would make that difficult to accomplish.

The issue now goes to City Council.

Mr. Ravenstahl said he's not sure whether he would have the authority to veto the historic status if it wins city council approval, but even if he has the power he won't use it. He supported the position of Councilman Bill Peduto, who is expected to succeed him as mayor in January, and proposed finding an alternative to demolition.

"I will respect the planning commission decision," the mayor said after the celebration for a new Shop'n Save grocery in the Hill District. But he said the project itself is vital to the city's redevelopment efforts and Buncher should work to reach a compromise that allows the project to proceed.

"Whatever happens to this building ... that can be figured out," the mayor said. "Shame on all of us if we can't find a way to solve this."

A spokesman for Buncher said the company has "a lot of options" on the produce terminal and will continue to explore the possibilities.

The original plan calls for extending 17th Street to the Allegheny River and spending up to $22 million to turn the rest of the former wholesale produce marketplace into offices and restaurants.

"The Buncher Co. continues to have discussions with the incoming administration about the produce terminal," the spokesman said. "The fate of the produce terminal has not been decided."

Regardless of what happens with the terminal, Buncher will proceed with other aspects of the project.

"The development of the remaining acreage is continuing to move forward," he said.

That work includes widening roads and other work to prepare parcels for construction.

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Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470. First Published October 17, 2013 8:00 PM


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