Railroad sues to stop development on Allegheny riverfront
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The Allegheny Valley Railroad Co. sued today to stop a proposed office and residential development in the Strip District, claiming that the plan would violate a 1981 agreement the railroad has with the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority involving the historic produce terminal.
In the lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, the railroad argued that the URA agreed when it purchased the produce terminal in 1981 to make "its best efforts" to use the Strip landmark as rental space for produce wholesalers or "some other rail-oriented use."
The complaint charges that the URA has "willfully ignored" the terms of the deed covenant by leasing the facility to the Buncher Co., which plans to demolish about a third of it so it can connect 17th Street to the Allegheny River as part of the office and residential redevelopment; by not renewing leases and forcing some rail-oriented customers to vacate the terminal and relocate elsewhere; and by working to create a special planning district for the Buncher project that would restrict the ability to use the terminal as a rail-oriented facility.
The lawsuit is asking a judge for an injunction to stop the URA from leasing, developing or disposing of the terminal in a way that violates the deed covenant and from requesting the development of a special planning district incorporating the terminal. A hearing is scheduled Thursday.
The railroad provides freight service to the produce wholesalers. In June, Russell Peterson, the railroad's CEO, sent a letter to council seeking more than $1.8 million for what he described as business losses related to Buncher's plan.
He said then that the URA had not compensated him for the proposed repurposing of the terminal building or the loss of his biggest customer, the J.E. Corcoran Co., which moved to Thornburg after nearly 100 years in the Strip. In addition to demolishing part of the terminal, Buncher plans to convert the rest of the building into retail and office space.
URA officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The proposed Buncher redevelopment, called Riverfront Landing, would stretch from the Veterans Bridge to 21st Street and from Smallman Street to the river. It would feature more than 750 units of housing, plus retail and office development.
First Published September 24, 2012 3:05 pm