Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Says It Tried to Buy Penn Plaza

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Says It Tried to Buy Penn Plaza

Article excerpt

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's administration tried several times to buy the former Penn Plaza apartment complex in East Liberty, angling to maintain affordable housing in the trendy neighborhood, a top aide said Tuesday.

Developer LG Realty Advisors turned down each of the city's overtures since 2015 and declined "a serious conversation" about a purchase, said Kevin Acklin, chief of staff under Mr. Peduto. The Penn Avenue property has since become a flashpoint for housing activists while the developer pursues a contested redevelopment plan at the site.

"We thought perhaps there might be an avenue to acquire the property and rehab it for affordable housing. They said no," Mr. Acklin said of an advance made this spring. "We said, 'Obviously, it's private property.' And that's their right."

More than 200 Penn Plaza residents relocated to accommodate the intended redevelopment, which would include 12,000 square feet of offices and 200 new apartments in an initial phase. Attorney Jonathan Kamin said the developer made "a strong commitment" of roughly $10 million toward the city's affordable housing trust fund, plus an offer of 20 percent affordable housing in the project's second phase.

But none of that will materialize while the city stymies the project, said Mr. Kamin, who represents Pennley Park South, an affiliate of LG Realty. He confirmed that the group would not sell to the city. Activists lobbying to preserve Penn Plaza unveiled the sale prospect in a Tuesday news release, revealing the city's attempts to buy.

Mr. Acklin said the city never floated a specific price.

"Instead of talking to President Trump, it looks like the mayor has been talking to Kim Jong Un and is looking to go ahead and take our private property - or nationalize our private property - for his own political purposes," Mr. Kamin said, referencing the communist dictator in North Korea.

He said the developer believes it's "done more than our fair share." It appears city officials rejected the Penn Plaza redevelopment plan to devalue the property and "use it for political purposes," Mr. Kamin said. He argued the city could foster affordable housing on nearby sites that it already owns. …

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