Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Deal with State Would Sell Old Pittsburgh Prison for $1 to Manchester Bidwell Corp

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Deal with State Would Sell Old Pittsburgh Prison for $1 to Manchester Bidwell Corp

Article excerpt

The former State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh site wouldn't be an easy remodeling project.

Built from 1876 to 1882, and closed occasionally even before its final mothballing in mid-2017, it includes many blocks of small cells stacked atop one another in hulking stone buildings.

But North Side nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corp. has an agreement to buy the site for $1, contingent upon a number of factors, such as additional studies on the property and the approval of the state Legislature, state officials confirmed Friday.

"Whenever the commonwealth looks to sell surplus property, we always make an effort to find a buyer who has the best interests of the local community in mind. In the case of SCI Pittsburgh, we are pleased to have found a community partner with the reputation and track record that Manchester Bidwell has in Pittsburgh," said Troy Thompson, a spokesman for the state's Department of General Services, which oversees commonwealth properties.

Pittsburgh Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who represents the Marshall-Shadeland area in which the empty prison sits, decried the emerging deal at a news conference later Friday, because, she said, community groups had not been consulted.

"I am opposed to this agreement as it is written and will continue to fight to ensure that the North Side communities have a voice," she said, standing at a table festooned with a map of what she said was the 22-acre site of the prison. "I'm not saying anything wrong about Bidwell," she added, but she proposed that neighborhood groups should have a chance to buy the property, if they want it.

"There is no way they could encompass 22 acres of property," she said of the Manchester Bidwell Corp.

She also mocked the $1 price, but declined to speculate on a different value.

"It has all kinds of value for the neighborhoods," she said. She also would not say what she does, or does not, want on the site. "I want what the communities want," she said, pledging to hold a meeting to discuss the future of the site with neighborhood representatives.

She admitted there is nothing Pittsburgh City Council can do to stop a sale. "This is a state issue."

Joe Brown, a board member of the Brightwood Civic Group, which operates in Marshall-Shadeland, said he attended meetings around the time of the prison's closure at which state officials pledged to consult with the neighborhood before doing anything with the site.

"We felt comfortable with that promise they gave us," Mr. Brown said. "We did not know that they were in a back room somewhere coming up with some other deal."

The former penitentiary sits in the district of state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline.

"It's not a done deal," Mr. Fontana emphasized Friday.

Any sale would need the approval of the Legislature "and the approval of the community as well," he said. …

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