City to use cash from sales to fix Downtown buildings
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The $400 million headquarters PNC is planning to build on Wood Street is already generating additional investment Downtown months before ground is broken.
The city plans to use about half of the $1.1 million it will earn from the sale of three properties to the bank for the skyscraper project to improve vacant storefronts and upgrade the upper floors of other buildings in the Golden Triangle.
About $25,000 will be earmarked for Streetscenes Pittsburgh, a program designed to enliven vacant storefronts with artwork or maybe even exhibits related to the history of the city and Western Pennsylvania.
"It's really designed to light up the dark areas of Downtown," said Yarone Zober, chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Urban Redevelopment Authority board chairman.
The city may call on the Senator John Heinz History Center to create exhibits for the buildings or may look for "pop-up" retail, or temporary ventures to put in the spaces.
The goal, Mr. Zober said, is to make the corridor more inviting to visitors and office workers while waiting for a more established development or business to take root.
Another $500,000 will be reserved for a Downtown Upper Floors Safety Fund to be administered by the URA.
The program will offer interest-free loans to building owners to help pay for "life safety" improvements, such as sprinklers, elevators and fire-rated stairwell access to make it easier to convert upper floors into residences.
Property owners will be eligible for loans of up to 75 percent of the cost of the improvements to a maximum of $100,000. Loans don't have to be paid back until the property is sold.
"Costly life-safety repairs are standing in the way of Downtown property owners' ability to renovate upper floors for residential use," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "By eliminating that financial barrier, this program has the potential to bring more residential housing to Downtown Pittsburgh."
The programs were developed by a working group set up by the mayor's office to look at ways to improve the Downtown business corridor.
Among the stakeholders involved were the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Point Park University and the history center.
URA board members are expected to vote Thursday on the sale of three Wood Street properties to PNC for the Tower at PNC Plaza development. The bank is billing the 40-story office tower as the world's greenest skyscraper.
Construction is expected to start next year. Completion is scheduled for mid 2015. The URA parcels are the last ones PNC needs for the footprint of the building, which will occupy half a block on Wood and Fifth and Forbes avenues.
The $1.1 million sales price for the URA parcels was determined through an appraisal. The agency had purchased the properties for a combined $1.9 million.
With the proceeds from the sale, the city is also planning to replenish two neighborhood business district improvement initiatives, including the popular "streetface" program.
The rest of the money may go into the city's general fund.
First Published June 15, 2011 12:03 am