Grant to boost development in East Liberty
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East Liberty got another shot in the arm Tuesday, with the award of a $15 million federal grant to help build a new multimodal transit center that is designed to serve as the cornerstone for more commercial, residential and office development in the growing East End neighborhood.
The $34 million transit center will be the hub for nearly 1,000 bus arrivals and departures each day, help to connect the East Busway to the East Liberty commercial corridor, and create a new pedestrian link between East Liberty and neighboring Shadyside.
But in terms of the bigger picture, officials see it as a linchpin for even more development in the burgeoning corridor.
"I can't emphasize enough that while $15 million is great, the impact of what it is going to kick off in East Liberty is in the hundreds of millions of dollars," said Nate Cunningham, director of real estate development for East Liberty Development Inc.
The transit center is a big boost for the proposed Eastside III and Eastside IV developments to be built on the land surrounding it. The Mosites Co., the developer, is considering potential office, residential and hotel developments on the property, which is located near the Target store.
Construction of the transit center was "absolutely necessary" for such projects to move forward, Mr. Cunningham said.
"It's not going to build office buildings, but it's going to create a place where people will want to be and it will provide the infrastructure for us to place these buildings," said Steve Mosites, president of the Mosites Co.
Mosites has received "quite a bit of interest" in the Eastside III and Eastside IV developments, Mr. Mosites said. He said he expects to decide within the next 90 days whether to move forward with housing, offices, a hotel or some combination at the site. He would like to begin work next spring or summer.
The transit center also is expected to be the anchor for such projects as the $120 million-plus Bakery Square 2.0 development at the former Reizenstein school and the boutique Ace hotel at the former YMCA building.
Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the $15 million U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER IV grant, announced by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, will be combined with state and city monies to fund the center. She said she expects construction to begin next spring.
"This project will connect more people with the $440 million of public and private investment occurring in this growing neighborhood and provide the multimodal connections that are needed to keep pace with the transformation of East Liberty," Mr. Ravenstahl said.
The new transit center will include a new bicycle garage and new platforms. A walkway utilizing an old ramp for buses will help to connect the busway, currently located below street level, to the East Liberty commercial corridor.
"This really connects the heart of East Liberty into the transit system. It helps us to be more competitive in attracting more shoppers, residents and office users into East Liberty," Mr. Cunningham said.
Only 7 percent of those that applied for the grants got them, according to Mr. Casey's office. In all, about $500 million in grants were awarded.
First Published June 20, 2012 12:00 am