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Piltdown Man

Hi -

Not sure of your point? First off, $167,000 is not the price range for homes that those nasty rich yuppies live in.
That's a very mid-priced house.

And while I'm not fan of the URA generally, I am a huge fan of bringing back East Liberty, which was once, as I'm sure you're aware, second only to Downtown in terms of commercial activity in the city. I would much rather see money spent to restore this building than say, build a tunnel under the river for light rail or build a new stadium. This project brings PEOPLE back into a blighted area and once people are there, all sorts of other development will follow.

The sad truth is that developers know they can demand give-backs. The trade off we all have to make is to decide whether the money is well-spent, and part of an ongoing, forwward-looking plan, or just a handout...




Agreed on most points, but...

Yes, $167,000 isn't much for a house. These are not houses. These are condos. No yard. No fence. No garage. No LAND. So in assessing who might be in the market for such things, I think it is fair to say that these are for a higher-end market.

And agreed: bringing East Liberty back should be a priority. But whose priority? Are municipal governments good at that sort of thing? More specifically, is Pittsburgh's municipal government good at it? Do people who fashion themselves as "redevelopment officials" have any record of success, other than in procuring favor for their proposals? To wit, after five decades of Pittsbugh's much vaunted "Rennaisance," does the city look more or less vital than it did a few decades ago? A lot of people have voted with their feet. That is, they left to pursue vitality elsewhere. And just who was it who blocked the walkways between East Liberty and Shadyside in the first place? Experts. Much more of this expertise and the city is going to be in real trouble.

Yes, a lot of other factors came into play. Pittsburgh would have been in trouble no matter what once Big Steel started rusting. Still, these people promise the world every time. And they never deliver. So I see no reason to trust their instincts here.

And again, I see your point regarding subsidies for urban residential: Everyone else is doing it. But is that REALLY a good reason to follow suit? Every city was building convention centers a few years back, so Pittsburgh had to have one. What has it accomplished? If anything, does it approach what backers promised? Is downtown vital because of it?

So maybe it IS time for a real creative class to take hold. One that will come up with something other than subsidies for loft apartments.

Loft apartments are great. I would live in one if I could. But by "could" I mean, "could afford it." And by afford it, I mean, "afford the whole thing." I see no reason to expect the people of Pittsburgh--who are having a hard enough time exterminating their rats--pick up the tab for my granite countertops. And I think it comes across as kind of arrogant to say, "Hey, Pittsburgh, if you pick up the tab for my granite countertops I promise I will grace your city with my presence, go to the theater and sip mochaccinos in funky little coffee shops with my creative friends."

Look, was the first city that began "smokestack chasing" doing the right thing? Maybe so. But was the city that copied it doing the right thing, too? How about the 100th city? I suspect they saw diminishing returns. And eventually some city that goes in for the salvation-through-hip-urban-living thing is going to be left holding the bag.

I would prefer trying to figure out what is good about Pittsburgh and building on that. And letting the people who will benefit most bear the costs. That is, build loft apartments if you want. But either pass the costs on to the people who will live in it, or build something less extravagant.


Given what I know of that building (asbetos, firecode violations, massive HVAC work) there is not a whole lot of residual value left that could be directly brought to the market anywhere except on the first floor. $1000 is cheap, but it is not a significant discount as you make it seem as there was not a line of people wanting to buy the building and put it back on the tax rolls. I can understand your greater point, but the subsidy is not as large as you suggest it to be.

Sam M


While Pittsburgh is cheap, I doubt it's that cheap. An empty lot the size of the one on which this building rests would cost more than $1,000. Substantially more.

But maybe not. If that is the case, then I question what value the URA added. What role did it play? I am sure supporters are going to single out its great work in this case. But if all it did was buy the property and resell it, why bother? Maybe it acted as a cheerleader for the city? Isn't the chamber of commerce supposed to do that? And the mayor? I don't know, maybe the people who owned the building before URA bought it might have had an interest in doing so.

Look, this developer is surely a better judge of potential sites than the experts at the URA. Why not just let such developers canvass the city if they are interested and pick out what they like?

I suspect it's because the developers prefer the subsidies involved. You suggest it is a small one. Well, if they are that small, why not forego them and allow the developer to pass that small amount on to the people who are going to buy these condos? I mean, if it comes down to $100 an apartment, can the city justify paying what it pays to operate URA?

Jonathan Potts

Why not auction off the building? If the URA purchased it with funds that require it be used for housing, then limit the bidders to condo or apartment developers.

We need to consider a few othersthings about Pittsburgh. It is not growing, and neither is the rest of the region. So the supply of housing is greater than the demand. Within the city limits, you have several other high-end housing developments, some of which also have received some kind of subsidy. At some point, they are going to cannibalize one another.

Amos the Poker Cat

The KNoxville MSA has gone from a population of 424K people in 1960, to 687K in 2000. Downtown Knoxville is awash in condos. Yet, Sterchi Lofts is rental only.

No predictions, but this is going to be amusing to follow. That is as long as I am not going to have to pay for it.


dude, you hate yuppies? check out my shit!

Mark Rauterkus

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We can't subsidize rich folks. That should NOT happen here.

The worst part of the deal is that some think we MUST subsidize. That is how the game is played. Do it, they say. I say 'think again.' We need to let others know that we don't NEED to subsidize dumb deals as a SOP (standare operating proceedure). Generally, the good money from the public falls to the wealthy.

The long-term killer is the fact that the deals in one place can hurt other places. Property elsewhere becomes less viable.

New idea example: How about if we took a building like this and made some type of creative deal so that those people who are now in FEMA trailers in LA could move to Pittsburgh. They are in need. Give ten months of free rent. Then charge the going rate. I think we need to be more creative and we need to be looking at where the greatest needs are. Real needs, not some little pimple needs.

I'd rather subsidize serious quality of life improvements for those in real need. Then if the building is half full but a hub of community -- a gangplank to Pittsburgh -- in six months, we'd be able to have a cash-flow projection. Evolve the project with more of a co-op attitude rather than a one-shot deal with one developer with deep pockets.

The URA does this cancer and kemo dance with continual shocks to the system. How about a more organic, gradual, evolutional transition. Then the rushes to mega changes happen as counter-punches to mega situations.

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