Buncher may scale back Strip District project in Pittsburgh
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Buncher Co. might have to scale back or slow down its proposed Strip District project without a city-approved financing package, a development official told Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday.
Riverfront improvements might be among the amenities affected, and asphalt parking lots will dot the site if there's no financing package to help build parking garages, Robert Rubinstein, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's acting executive director, said at council's post-agenda meeting.
Buncher could not be reached for comment.
Councilman Patrick Dowd said he called the meeting to discuss the impact that tax-increment financing has had on development and job creation citywide.
However, the discussion shifted to Buncher's proposal for a $400 million mixed-use development on 55 acres stretching from the Veterans Bridge to 21st Street between Smallman Street and the Allegheny River.
Mr. Dowd is holding up a tax-increment financing plan of up to $50 million for the project. He has demanded more information about how the money would be used and suggested that Buncher would turn part of the site into a "gated community," even though a city's riverfront plan stresses the importance of public access to the river.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has demanded introduction of the legislation, saying in a June email that Mr. Dowd was threatening a project that would "create 3,100 jobs, $22 million in annual tax revenue and further grow our city's population and vitality."
In addition to the tax-increment financing plan, Buncher has requested special zoning legislation for the project site. After the post-agenda meeting, Mr. Dowd noted that public space -- such as riverfront access -- is a requirement of special zoning districts.
"The opportunity to make this a really great development is there," Mr. Dowd said.
In all, Mr. Rubinstein said, the authority has launched 20 council-backed tax-increment financing plans since the early 1990s.
Under the plans, developers continue to pay property taxes on their land, but a portion of new taxes generated by development is earmarked for infrastructure improvements -- such as streets, traffic signals and sewer and water lines -- on and around project sites.
In Buncher's case, Mr. Rubinstein said, a portion of new taxes also could be earmarked for riverfront improvements. He said the 20 tax-increment financing plans citywide have generated about 20,000 jobs and attracted $2 billion in investment at developments such as Bakery Square in Shadyside and SouthSide Works.
First Published November 8, 2012 12:00 am