Pittsburgh Planners See Potential In A Revamped Mellon Square

DSC01808Could Mellon Square become the next Market Square?

While it’s no European-style piazza, some believe the area around the newly restored park could be primed to become one of Downtown’s next hot spots for restaurants and retail.

“I see it becoming the next great Downtown destination,” said Herky Pollock, executive vice president of the CBRE real estate firm.

Only a few years ago, the Smithfield Street corridor between Fifth and Liberty avenues that includes Mellon Square appeared to be ready for last rites.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/07/21/Planners-developers/stories/201407200210#ixzz3892O45lx

$60-$70 Million Chestnut Street Residential Development Set To Begin

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In what would transform a bedraggled slice of central Philadelphia, demolition crews are weeks away from dismantling nearly an entire side of the 1100 block of Chestnut Street, part of a $60 million to $70 million redevelopment tapping the soaring apartment market and surging appetites to shop and live east of Broad Street.

Zoning approvals and permits are in place, additional property was acquired as recently as Thursday, and a large section of sidewalk has been closed as lead development partner Brickstone Co. prepares to build a complex of loft-style apartments above towering, three-story retail spaces.

The development will stretch almost the length of the south side of Chestnut between 11th and 12th Streets, Brickstone managing partner John J. Connors said.

Connors would not discuss what tenants are being courted, but the project could include a supermarket if rumors swirling among civic activist circles are true.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140425__60-_70_million_Chestnut_Street_residential_development_set_to_begin.html#oF4zBbpGx4j9dij1.99

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Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deb Gross Proposes Land Bank

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross is proposing the creation of a land bank for the city of Pittsburgh, a mechanism that could streamline the process of redeveloping tax-delinquent land.

Ms. Gross today introduced a bill today creating the legal framework for the land bank, which would be an entity separate from the city. The legislation is a work in progress because Ms. Gross wants to get community input on many of the program’s details.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the State Land Bank Act, which allowed for the creation of land banks. Since the passage of the law, Westmoreland County, Dauphin County and Philadelphia have created land banks.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/14/Pittsburgh-councilwoman-Deb-Gross-proposes-land-bank/stories/2014011401450000000#ixzz2qQ6pSLFH

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3 Pittsburgh Construction Projects Hang In The Balance in 2014

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This year could be a pivotal one in the development of the former Civic Arena site in the lower Hill District, the LTV Coke Works in Hazelwood and the Strip District produce terminal.

Both the arena redevelopment and the Buncher Co.’s plans for the produce terminal not only have the potential to generate drama but could pose the first development-related challenges for Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, who takes office Monday.

Nearly two years after the Civic Arena came down, 2014 could bring the first wave of new development to the site, which is considered among the most valuable pieces of real estate in the region.

But there’s a potential fight brewing.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/03/3-city-construction-projects-hang-in-the-balance-in-2014/stories/201401030104#ixzz2pMlbpeNL

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BLIGHT & REDEVELOPMENT STUDY FOR THE BOROUGH OF POTTSTOWN, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA

Editor’s note: Here is some interesting reading for current Pottstown Borough residents, potential residents and business investors.  

http://www.genesishousing.org/_pdfs/pottstown_blight_study_2013_website.pdf

Ambler Boiler House, Arborcrest Office Park Among 2013 Montgomery Award Winners

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ambler Boiler House and the Arborcrest office campus are getting some high praise for jobs well done.

The two construction projects were among five recipients of the 2013 Montgomery Awards, sponsored by the Montgomery County Planning Commission Nov. 13.

Accoring to a Montgomery County press release, the awards are given to outstanding projects and their creators for the best planning and design in the county. The award is an acknowledgment of the high quality of work and the commitment of communities, organizations and professionals.

According to a press release, the Boiler House was the recipient of the award for “the successful revitalization and adaptive reuse of an historic industrial structure in a state-of-the-art office building that incorporates sustainable design. This transit-oriented project, once a brownfield site, recognizes Ambler’s industrial heritage while advancing the borough’s revitalization efforts and providing environmental and economic benefits to the community.”

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20131121/ambler-boiler-house-arborcrest-office-park-among-2013-montgomery-award-winners

Lafayette Street Corridor Groundbreaking Set For Monday In Norristown

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN ­­— A groundbreaking ceremony for the first contract to extend Lafayette Street into Plymouth and widen it to four lanes will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Ford and Lafayette streets.

The $11.5 million contract with Allan A. Myers Inc. of Worcester will extend the existing Lafayette Street from Ford Street to Conshohocken Road. The 0.6-mile extension will have two lanes in each direction and a 12-foot landscaped median in the center.

“We are building a new road bridge over Ross Street for Lafayette Street.  Ross Street is where the Schuylkill River Trail crosses under the Norfolk Southern railway bridge,” said Leo Bagley, the assistant director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.  “We are building a noise wall from Ross Street toward Conshohocken Road to protect the residences on Ross Street and Chestnut Street in Plymouth.”

The Schuylkill River Trail will be relocated and rebuilt next to the Lafayette Street extension, where it will serve as a sidewalk for the roadway. Trail users around the Ross Street crossing may be affected by limited closures for bridge work.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130907/NEWS01/130909732/lafayette-street-corridor-groundbreaking-set-for-monday-in-norristown#full_story

Genetti Pushes Plan To Restore Historic Wilkes-Barre Train Station

WEST PITTSTON— It was this important to area hotelier Gus Genetti:  He admitted he had donned a suit “for the first time in two weeks” since having open heart surgery.

The cause that spurred him? Saving Wilkes-Barre’s historic New Jersey Central train station.

“This is a gateway to the historic part of Wilkes-Barre,” Genetti told the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority Board at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The authority bought the train station and surrounding land, including a strip mall on Market Street near Wilkes-Barre Boulevard, in 2006 using most of a $6.1 million loan from Luzerne County.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/681056/Genetti-pushes-plan-to-restore-train-station

Program Profiles Reading Redevelopment Efforts

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Efforts to revitalize Reading’s economy were highlighted Thursday in a live national round-table online discussion that included panelists from California and Georgia.

Albert Boscov is very good at shaking money trees, and I collect the bills,” said Adam Mukerji, executive director of the Reading Redevelopment Authority, who sat in for the retailer Boscov, a key figure with Our City Reading, a group committed to helping first-time buyers purchase refurbished city homes.

Mukerji described the retailer “as one of the most charitable persons I have ever worked with.”

Conversation Starters, a national nonprofit based in College Station, Texas, hosted the third in a series focusing on nationwide ideas for community building and economic development.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=484645

Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority Votes To Become Equity Investor In $4.8 Million Apartment Project

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until recently, when real estate developers wanted an extra financial push to make a city redevelopment project viable, they turned to state officials.

But grant funding through the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development has all but dried up, and competition for the remaining funds is fierce.

On Tuesday, the Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority agreed to step into the gap to make a project happen.

Authority board members voted to become equity investors in a $4.8 million apartment construction project.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/839507_City-redevelopment-authority-votes-to-become-equity-investor-in–4-8-million-apartment-project.html#ixzz2QqlkDQLs

Developer Of Old Armorcast Site Wants Big Tax Break From Daniel Boone School District

Now that the former Armorcast factory in Birdsboro is demolished, the property owner and developers are hoping to also clear the unpaid real estate taxes.

Steve Marshall, a lawyer for Meco Demolition Inc. of Bensalem, Bucks County, asked the Daniel Boone School Board this week to waive or reduce real estate taxes from 2007 to 2011 for the 91-acre property.  Unpaid taxes owed to the district total about $86,000.

Owner Gregory Flynn of Armorcast LP hired Meco to demolish the dilapidated factory, which produced steel for tanks during World War II.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=444662

Rewrite Of Pennsylvania Property Tax Sale Laws Is Tool In Blight Fight

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and ...

Map of Pennsylvania, showing major cities and roads (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This can’t happen soon enough!

HARRISBURG – Affordable housing advocates are urging a reform of Pennsylvania’s property tax sale laws to help fight blight in both large cities and small towns.

They want to overhaul a system that allows speculators to obtain a lien on property at tax sales by paying delinquent taxes and yet not go the next step and obtain clear title.

Other legislation being sought would give long-standing residents the opportunity to take ownership of homes in cases where the recorded owner has abandoned them and put more restrictions on who can bid at property tax sales.

Rewriting archaic tax sale laws that date to the 1920s and 1940s is seen as a way to help fiscally distressed cities rebuild their tax bases and help get newly authorized land banks off the ground.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/rewrite-of-property-tax-sale-laws-is-tool-in-blight-fight-1.1414337

Senator Smucker Drafts Redevelopment Plan For Lancaster City

Whenever he holds a meeting in his office on the seventh floor of Lancaster County‘s administration building, at 150 N. Queen St., Commissioner Scott Martin said people always look out the windows and remark on the sweeping view of the city.

“Then, they look down,” Martin said, referring to Lancaster Square, the vacant Bulova Technologies building and the Hotel Brunswick, part of which has been condemned.

The public square and the surrounding buildings are an island in the city. The area has steadfastly resisted redevelopment even as much of the rest of Lancaster city has flowered with restaurants and art galleries in recent years.

On Thursday, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker announced a proposal to help Lancaster city and four other similar-sized cities in Pennsylvania to redevelop problem areas.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/735135_Smucker-drafts-redevelopment-plan-for-Lancaster-city.html#ixzz26SJampk0

King Of Prussia Mall Adding 122,000 Square-Foot Building On Former Wanamaker’s Site

The old Wanamaker’s store at King of Prussia Mall will meet with a wrecking ball to make way for a new 122,000 square-foot building that will house 10 new stores.  The former Wanamaker’s store has been empty for some time now.

King of Prussia Mall is having a great year and the mall is looking to add more prime space to attract additional retailers.  The new construction will continue through the fall of 2012.

This is the first major redevelopment project at the mall since 2001 when the Pavilion was created at the Court in the former Strawbridge and Clothier store.

$65 Million Mixed-Use Community Planned For Phoenixville

PHOENIXVILLE — The long-abandoned Phoenix Steel parcel on Bridge Street is about to be redeveloped into a $65 million mixed-use community by O Creek Associates.

The proposed Shoppes at French Creek will be made up of 80,000 square feet of retail, 275 apartments and 30,000 square feet of office space on seven acres that was once Phoenix Steel’s parcel O, hence the name of the development company.

“It will be a place to live, work and hang out,” said developer Manny DeMutis, the managing partner of O Creek Associates, a private equity group…

To read the entire article from the Daily Local, click here:

http://business-news.thestreet.com/daily-local-news/story/mixed-use-development-moving-forward-phoenixville-video-0/1

Spanish American Civic Association Helping Redevelop And Stabilize Lancaster’s SE Quadrant Neighborhood

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Image via Wikipedia

Lancaster’s Spanish American Civic Association (SACA) was formed in 1984 to focus on the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant and blighted homes in Lancaster’s southeast quadrant neighborhood.  This neighborhood is 63 percent rental properties.  Lancaster City is 33.2 percent Hispanic.

The SACA Development Corporation rehabilitates numerous vacant and blighted properties and returns them to the housing market every year.  The new or renovated housing units are affordably priced housing for low or moderate-income families. 

The SACA also provides many other services:  a senior center, meals, employment assistance, case management, HIV/AIDs./HepC counseling/testing, career development, training and adult education, youth programs, drug and alcohol education, student family liaison, behavioral health services, a drug and alcohol treatment facility, adolescent counseling and therapeutic services.

The SACA Development Corporation’s latest project is the near completion of 13 townhouses under their Homeownership Choice Program.  These homes are priced at $99,600.  Twenty-seven other homes were built or converted in two other phases prior to this third phase.  An East Petersburg, PA contractor won the bid so construction was done by a Lancaster County company. 

These are state of the art, energy-efficient homes with every conceivable convenience built in.  Because these homes are new construction in Lancaster City, the owners will benefit from a tax-abatement program and pay lower property taxes.  This third phase of transformation will reduce blight, reduce crime and stabilize the area with homeowners (stakeholders) versus tenants (transient residents).

The Homeownership Choice Program is available through the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.  Money also came from the city, the county, the Federal Home Loan Bank in Pittsburgh, PA Department of Community and Economic Development and Neighborhood Assistance program for tax credits.  Lancaster based Fulton Bank was the construction lender. 

Redevelopment really does take a village!

Building York: A Community & Economic Development Summit

A Building York summit was called by York Mayor C. Kim Bracey and her partners to identify economic and community development opportunities and challenges that face the York Metropolitan area.  The summit means to:  identify goals, educate the community, spur redevelopment in the urban core, accelerate investment, formulate new ideas, and create momentum, partnerships and a sense of urgency.

The goal of the two-day summit, which ended Thursday, was to formulate a plan of action from 2011 through 2015.

One of the cool events was the screening of a film called “My Tale of Two Cities” by Carl Kurlander.  The film chronicles where Pittsburgh was, where Pittsburgh is and how Pittsburgh reinvented itself.  Kurlander gave an inspirational talk to the large crowd and said things like:  believe in the possible, what happens in York matters to everyone and do not tear down all the beautiful historic buildings!  It was a message of hope and what can be accomplished if the entire York community pulls together.

Sessions offered to participants were on topics such as:  sustainable infrastructure and Pennsylvania’s green economy, best practices in urban renewal, residential reinvestment and new methods and practices in urban redevelopment and investment.  The sessions were followed by roundtable discussions, led by York civic and community leaders.

Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up to York City and County leadership for working together to improve the entire York Metro area!

Developer Charlie Jefferson: A Driving Force Behind Scranton’s Downtown Renaissance

 Connell Building exterior

My trip to Scranton included meeting and touring with Charlie Jefferson, along with Mayor Doherty.  Charlie is a Scranton developer who has a passion for his work and a desire to see Scranton blossom.  Charlie is responsible for the dramatic transformation of the Connell Building.  Charlie, like Mayor Doherty, is very down-to-earth and approachable.

Charlie took us inside the Connell Building.  The eight-story building sat vacant for 10 years before being developed.  The building’s occupancy rate was about 20 percent for ten years before becoming vacant.  Now there are 89 new 1 – 2 bedroom, market-priced, luxury loft apartments.  The building has been beautifully restored, while maintaining historical integrity and bringing the building up to code.  Every loft is rented.  There is a waiting list!  I have no interior pictures of any apartments because there is no model and Charlie was unable to contact anyone who might have let us tour and photograph their apartment home.  Maybe next trip!

The bottom two floors of the Connell Building will be used for commercial/retail/office.  This will be a great example of mixed-use development when this part is finished.  Charlie said he is working with a grocery store to move into the building along with other tenants to fill the remaining commercial/retail/office space.  Imagine the convenience of going down an elevator to the grocery store.  No driving, parking and traffic!  City living at its finest!

Another nice feature of the Connell Building is the attached parking garage.  Secure garage parking is available to all the residents of the Connell Building if they choose to rent a space.

Over 50% of the Connell Building’s tenants are new residents to Scranton and Lackawanna County.  There is a growing segment of people who want to live in a redeveloped heritage property.  These people are usually well-educated professionals who want the best urban living has to offer.  There are looking for walkable downtowns with fine restaurants, shopping, cultural events, services and entertainment.  Concentrated pockets of people in a downtown, with disposable income, will greatly increase the customer base for stores, restaurants and other businesses in general.  This phenomenon is not necessarily limited to the 20’s – 30’s demographic.  There are more middle-agers and seniors who want to sell the house, downsize and become urban dwellers entering this emerging market.

The Connell Building’s first tenant is a grandson of the building’s original owner.  He was very excited to see his family’s former building redeveloped and wanted to be part of the renaissance in Scranton.

Charlie’s newest project is the redevelopment of the former Chamber of Commerce Building, not far from the Connell Building.  The building is now vacant.  Like the Connell Building, the old Chamber Building was constructed during Scranton’s King Coal heyday.  It is very opulent.  Charlie plans to do the same thing with this building as he did with the Connell Building.  It is expected that Scranton will need 600 more apartments/condominiums in the next 5 years because of the medical college and spin-off development.  If the law school becomes a reality, that number will substantially increase. 

Charlie took us inside the old Chamber Building and we poked around.  Structurally it is in great shape and ripe for development.  The building has amazing architectural features and many of the apartments will feature spectacular views of downtown Scranton.  There will be balconies!  This project will rent out quickly because of the location and unique features of the space.  The success of the Connell Building has paved the way for further mixed-use development downtown.

I am looking forward to the completion of Charlie’s newest project.  It promises to be amazing.

Having a great developer, like Charlie Jefferson, to work with is a huge part of the redevelopment process.  Mayor Doherty has surrounded himself with some very competent people to help turn his vision for Scranton into a reality.

 

Chamber Building pictures below, currently vacant awaiting development!

Horsham Mulls Development Opportunities At Willow Grove Naval Air Station

Aerial view of the U.S. Naval Air Station Will...

Image via Wikipedia

The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority (HLRA) has a great opportunity ahead.  892 acres of land from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station will be available for development.  The possibilities are endless for such a vast tact of land.

Also joining HLRA will be Hatboro-Horsham School District, Montgomery County Community College and Horsham Township.  This group will craft a vision of the Horsham of the future.  Public participation is desired.

Only 200 acres of the enormous base will remain with the Army Reserve and PA Air National Guard.  The runway will be closed in March.  The base has been “on again, off again” since 2005, but the end has finally come.  Now, the daunting task of what to do with this much public land begins.

HLRA has an exciting task ahead.  They have partnered with other good organizations, and the public, to create something amazing that will benefit the Philadelphia region.

I am excited to watch the process unfold and see the result.

To check out HLRA’s website and keep abreast of developments you can click here:

http://www.hlra.org/about/

One Of My Adaptive Reuse Posts Catches Eye Of Scranton Mayor

Scranton Cultural Center_0157.jpg

Image via Wikipedia

This is one of those moments that makes sitting here blogging away every day worth the effort.

I wrote a post for Code Blue’s The Pulse blog about an adaptive reuse project, here in Pottstown, that would transform the old armory building on King Street into luxury apartments.  This would be significant as there are several other projects lining up along the same lines.  If this project is successful, it could jump-start redevelopment in the central core neighborhood.

As an example of adaptive reuse in a central downtown neighborhood, I cited the Connell Building project in Scranton‘s central business district.  My post and reference to Scranton’s renaissance caught the eye of Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty.  As a result, I am traveling to Scranton on Tuesday to meet Mayor Doherty and get the mayoral tour of Central Scranton.  I am more than a little excited!

Here is a link to my post about the armory project:

http://codebluepulse.blogspot.com/2011/01/pennsylvania-state-armory-building.html

There will be a posting and lots of pictures from my trip!